In what appears to be a warming world, understanding how plants can tolerate and prosper at elevated temperatures is an intriguing topic. Small Things Considered's Associate Blogger Mark O. Martin looks at the symbiosis between panic grass, a virus, an endophytic fungus, and elevated temperatures in geothermal soils.
"The story began in 2002 when it was found that a type of grass growing in the geothermal zones of Yellowstone National Park—panic grass, Dichanthelium lanuginosum—was able to survive intermittent high temperatures in geothermal soils (up to 65 °C.) due to its association with an endophytic fungus, Curvularia protuberata. The fungus is essential to the plant's ability to tolerate temperatures that are lethal to the non-colonized plant."
"Endophytic fungi are quite common among plants and have been implicated in a number of mutualistic associations that display enhanced stress tolerance. But the story was far stranger than this. It turns out that the "thermal tolerance" trait conferred by the endophytic fungus is actually due to a specific RNA virus onboard."
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