A Functional View of Plant Microbiomes: Endosymbiotic Systems That Enhance Plant Growth and Survival

  • James F. WhiteJr.
  • Mónica S. Torres
  • Holly Johnson
  • Ivelisse Irizarry
  • Mariusz Tadych


Over the past several decades, it has become clear that numerous nonpathogenic or weakly pathogenic microbes inhabit plants both internally and externally. The challenge for plant biologists who study endophytism lies not only in the discovery of endophytes in plants but also in articulating the precise mechanisms whereby these endophytes function to support the growth and survival of their plant hosts. In this chapter, we discuss the phenomenon of microbial endophytism from a functional perspective. We propose that endophytic microbes in plants comprise a critical part of the plant’s functional systems. We propose three broad categories of endosymbiotic systems, including (1) Defensive Endosymbiotic Systems, (2) Stress Tolerance Endosymbiotic Systems, and (3) Nutritional Endosymbiotic Systems. We will also consider potential interactions between endosymbiotic organisms of plants and relativity of function of endosymbionts. A particular endophyte may serve multiple functions in the ecology of its host plant, and predominant functions of an endophyte may change depending on the ecological circumstances affecting its host. Only now are we beginning to realize how important endophytic microbes are to plants. Much research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms of action and the roles that endophytes play in modulating host plant ecology and enhancing plant growth and survival.


Endophytic Fungus Tall Fescue Microbial Consortium Ergot Alkaloid Fungal Endophyte 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and Central Washington University for resources and financial support. We are also grateful to Dr. John Craighead for discussions regarding the roles of bacteria in the human microbiome.


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Copyright information

© Springer India 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • James F. WhiteJr.
    • 1
  • Mónica S. Torres
    • 1
  • Holly Johnson
    • 2
  • Ivelisse Irizarry
    • 1
  • Mariusz Tadych
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, School of Environmental and Biological SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceCentral Washington UniversityEllensburgUSA

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