Controlled Transfer of Endohyphal Symbionts Among Fungal Strains

Technology #ua14-148

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Researchers
David Baltrus
Assistant Professor, Plant Sciences
Kayla Arendt
Graduate Assistant, Plant Sciences
Anne Arnold
Associate Professor, Plant Sciences
Managed By
Tod McCauley
Sr. Licensing Manager (520) 626-7916

Background:

Plant-associated fungi provide important ecosystem services as pathogens, mycorrhizae, endophytes, and saprotrophs. Endophytic fungi colonize healthy, living plant tissues in all biomes, often providing protection from pathogens, herbivores, and other environmental stressors. Saprotrophic fungi are the primary decomposers of senescent plant materials, cycling nutrients by breaking down cellulose and lignin. Many fungi play more than one of these roles throughout their life cycles, with functional switches in ecological modes driven in part by interactions with additional microbes. Recently diverse endophytic fungi were found to harbor endohyphal bacteria (EHB), which live within apparently healthy, viable fungal cells. Differences in suites of EHB between closely related fungal endophytes suggest horizontal transfer of these symbionts in nature. This relationship appears facultative for both partners, as bacteria can grow freely under laboratory conditions and we have successfully cured fungi of their EHB.

Application:

This product is varied, and there are broad implications for the disclosed technology. Ideally, it can be used in any situation whereby large populations of fungi need to be controlled or altered. It holds the possibility of being able to tailor bacteria for specific industrial and medical uses.

Advantages:

This method is novel and important because it represents the first demonstration that transfer of bacteria among fungi is possible. This holds broad implications relevant to industrial and biofuel development, and to our understanding of how bacteria influence different fungi.

Lead Inventor:

Elizabeth Arnold

UA ID: UA14-148