Examination of plant biotrophy in the scale insect parasitizing Fungus Dussiella tuberiformis

Adolfina Koroch, Hector Juliani, Joseph Bischoff, Elizabeth Lewis, Gerald Bills, James Simon, James White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Dussiella tuberiformis is a member of the Clavicipitaceae (Ascomycetes) associated with the perennial bamboo grass Arundinaria tecta. D. tuberiformis is one of only a few fungi that are capable of infecting insects and plants. To gain a better understanding of how the infection process is accomplished we conducted a study of the physical association of fungus and plant and the in vitro growth parameters of the fungus. From the structural studies we found that: 1) D. tuberiformis is a necrotrophic pathogen of scale insects, infecting and fully degrading the body of the scale insect; and 2) the stylet of the scale insect remains in the plant and the fungus is nourished by nutrients that leak to the surface through the stylet. The in vitro studies on the fungus suggest that: 1) fungal stroma development is largely fueled by non-reducing sugars, such as sucrose; 2) perithecial development on stromata may be triggered by restriction of nutrients and moisture; 3) nutritional auxotrophies, such as the inability to utilize nitrates as nitrogen sources, may be among the features of D. tuberiformis that limit its free-living and plant destructive capacity, thus relegating it to plant biotrophy rather than saprotrophy or destructive plant parasitism. We proposed that the evolution of plant biotrophy in D. tuberiformis may have bypassed gradual evolution from destructive pathogen to non-destructive biotroph by the intermediate infection of scale insects. Through infection of scale insects the fungus was able to gain direct access to nutrients of the plant without eliciting defensive responses, representing an evolutionary short cut route to plant biotrophy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-280
Number of pages14
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


  • Clavicipitaceae
  • Dussiella tuberiformis
  • Epibiont
  • Nutritional requirements
  • Perithecial development

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