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Variation of Insect Attracting Odor in Endophytic Epichloë Fungi: Phylogenetic Constrains Versus Host Influence

Steinebrunner, Fabrizio, Schiestl, Florian P., Leuchtmann, Adrian
Journal of chemical ecology 2008 v.34 no.6 pp. 772-782
Epichloe, endophytes, volatile compounds, races, interspecific variation, grasses, insect attractants, host plants, phylogeny, Anthomyiidae, odors, pollinating insects, fungi
Odor is a key trait for pollinator attraction in flowering plants, and many studies have investigated odor evolution in the light of pollinator selection by emphasizing the importance of the plant phylogenetic history. By contrast, little is known on the evolution of odors in fungus-insect interactions. In this study, profiles of three volatile compounds that are emitted by grass-inhabiting Epichloë fungi (Clavicipitaceae, Ascomycota) and that have a confirmed or likely role in the attraction of gamete-transferring Botanophila flies were investigated. We collected headspace samples from stromata of six European Epichloë species (including various host races) that originated from different locations in Switzerland, France, Poland, and UK for conducting gas chromatography analyses. Odor profiles exhibited considerable variation, but profiles of most species overlapped and did not discriminate at the species level. The exception was Epichloë festucae, which had a profile dominated by methyl (Z)-3-methyldodec-2-enoate. Based on an Epichloë phylogeny, there was some hierarchical structuring regarding levels of chokol K, another confirmed Botanophila attractant. However, patterns of odor profiles appeared to be largely dependant on particular Epichloë-host associations. The observed variation may be the result of complex selective pressures imposed by Botanophila gametic vectors, local environment, and mycoparasites.