Exophiala sp. LHL08 reprograms Cucumis sativus to higher growth under abiotic stresses

Abdul L Khan, Muhammad Hamayun, Nadeem Ahmad, Muhammad Waqas, Sang-Mo Kang, Yoon-Ha Kim, In-Jung Lee
Physiologia Plantarum 2011, 143 (4): 329-43
Endophytic fungi are potential sources of secondary metabolites; however, they are little known for phytohormones secretion and amelioration of plant growth under abiotic stresses. We isolated a novel endophyte from the roots of Cucumis sativus and identified it as a strain of Exophiala sp. by sequencing internal transcribed spacer/large subunit rDNA and phylogenetic analysis. Prior to identification, culture filtrate (CF) of Exophiala sp. has shown significant growth promotion of Waito-C [a gibberellins (GAs)-deficient mutant cultivar] and Dongjin-byeo (normal GAs biosynthesis cultivar) rice seedlings. CF analysis of Exophiala sp. showed the presence of physiologically active GAs (GA₁, GA₃, GA₄ and GA₇) and inactive GAs (GA₅, GA₈, GA₉, GA₁₂ and GA₂₀). Exophiala sp. had higher GAs in its CF than wild-type strain of Gibberella fujikuroi except GA₃. Influence of Exophiala sp. was assessed on cucumber plant's growth and endogenous abscisic acid (ABA), salicylic acid (SA) and bioactive GAs under salinity and drought stresses. Exophiala sp.-treated plants have shown significantly higher growth and rescued the host plants from stress promulgated water deficit, osmotic and cellular damage. The altered levels of stress-responsive ABA showed low level of stress confined to endophyte-applied plants than control. Elevated levels of SA and bioactive GAs (GA₃ and GA₄) in endophyte-associated plants suggest stress-modulating response toward salinity and drought. In conclusion, symbiotic relations between Exophiala and cucumber have reprogrammed the host plant growth under abiotic stresses, thus indicating a possible threshold role of endophytic fungi in stress alleviation. This study could be extended for improving agricultural productivity under extreme environmental conditions.

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