Host and geographic structure of endophytic and endolichenic fungi at a continental scale

Jana M. U'Ren, François Lutzoni, Jolanta Miadlikowska, Alexander D. Laetsch, A. Elizabeth Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

281 Scopus citations


Premise of the study: Endophytic and endolichenic fungi occur in healthy tissues of plants and lichens, respectively, playing potentially important roles in the ecology and evolution of their hosts. However, previous sampling has not comprehensively evaluated the biotic, biogeographic, and abiotic factors that structure their communities. Methods: Using molecular data we examined the diversity, composition, and distributions of 4154 endophytic and endolichenic Ascomycota cultured from replicate surveys of ca. 20 plant and lichen species in each of five North American sites (Madrean coniferous forest, Arizona; montane semideciduous forest, North Carolina; scrub forest, Florida; Beringian tundra and forest, western Alaska; subalpine tundra, eastern central Alaska). Key results: Endolichenic fungi were more abundant and diverse per host species than endophytes, but communities of endophytes were more diverse overall, reflecting high diversity in mosses and lycophytes. Endophytes of vascular plants were largely distinct from fungal communities that inhabit mosses and lichens. Fungi from closely related hosts from different regions were similar in higher taxonomy, but differed at shallow taxonomic levels. These differences reflected climate factors more strongly than geographic distance alone. Conclusions: Our study provides a first evaluation of endophytic and endolichenic fungal associations with their hosts at a continental scale. Both plants and lichens harbor abundant and diverse fungal communities whose incidence, diversity, and composition reflect the interplay of climatic patterns, geographic separation, host type, and host lineage. Although culture-free methods will inform future work, our study sets the stage for empirical assessments of ecological specificity, metabolic capability, and comparative genomics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)898-914
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Ascomycota
  • Diversity
  • Endolichenic fungi
  • Endophytic fungi
  • Lichens
  • Plant-fungal symbioses
  • Symbiotrophs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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