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In situ ergot alkaloid detection in three Balansia epichloe‐infected grass species

Bacon, C.W., Hinton, D.M., Mitchell, T.R., Palencia, E.R.
Journal of applied microbiology 2018 v.125 no.4 pp. 976-985
Balansia, DNA barcoding, Epichloe, Eragrostis, Sporobolus indicus, cryptic species, endophytes, ergot alkaloids, grasses, morphospecies, pot culture, spectroscopy, symbionts
AIMS: The objectives of this work were to characterize molecularly the morphologically described endophyte Balansia epichloe symbiotic on three grass species, and to determine the in situ production of ergot alkaloids on these three symbiota. METHODS AND RESULTS: Balansia epichloe symbiotic with smut grass (Sporobolus poiretii), love grass (Eragrostis hirsuta) and lace grass (Eragrostis capillaries, a new host) were characterized using DNA barcoding. Laser ablation electro spray ionization (LAESI)–mass spectrometry was used to detect ergot alkaloids in situ for each symbiotum. CONCLUSIONS: The three morphologically described symbionts on the three host grasses were indicated as belonging to the species B. epichloe, DNA barcoding suggested they were related although a cryptic species was suggested. LAESI–mass spectrometry showed that ergot alkaloids were produced in vivo in two hosts but not the third although this same symbiotum was related to one of the ergot alkaloid producing symbiota as revealed by the DNA‐barcoding procedure. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: These results established the accumulation of ergot alkaloids in pot culture by a morpho species although there were variations with each species of grass. Barcoding described divergence among species, but considering its limitation, the suggested existence of cryptic species among this morphospecies requires substantiation by studies that are more rigorous.