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Data from: Effect of the anther-smut fungus Microbotryum on the juvenile growth of its host Silene latifolia


Antonovics, Janis et al. (2019), Data from: Effect of the anther-smut fungus Microbotryum on the juvenile growth of its host Silene latifolia, Dryad, Dataset,


Premise of the Study: Plant pathogens that form persistent systemic infections within plants have the potential to affect multiple plant life history traits, yet we tend to focus only on visible symptoms. Anther-smut disease of Silene latifolia caused by the fungus Microbotryum lychnidis-dioicae induces the anthers of its host to produce fungal spores in place of pollen, and the pathogen is primarily transmitted among flowering plants by pollinators. Nevertheless, most of its life cycle is spent in the asymptomatic vegetative phase and infection can also occur through spores falling on seedlings or non-flowering plants. The purpose of this study was to ask if the fungus also had an effect on its host plant in the juvenile vegetative phase prior to flowering as this is important for the disease dynamics in species where transmission to seedlings is commonplace. Methods: Two greenhouse experiments compared the juvenile growth of inoculated and uninoculated plants, and in one experiment disease status of the plants at flowering was determined. Key Results: Inoculated plants had shorter but more leaves, and reduced root mass at the early juvenile (pre-flowering) stage. Some of these effects were detectable in plants that were inoculated but showed no disease symptoms at flowering. Conclusions: These results show that pathogenic fungi can have endophyte-like effects even in the total absence of their typical and more charismatic symptoms, and conversely that the assessment of endophyte effects on the fitness of their hosts should include all stages of the host life-cycle.

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National Science Foundation, Award: 1557045