Lecythophora sp. AK0013 was isolated in culture from the interior of living photosynthetic tissue of the moss, Pleurozium schreberi (Hylocomiaceae) in Eagle Summit, Alaska as part of a larger studying examining the similarity of endophytic and endolichenic fungal communities in five sites across North America (U’Ren et al. 2012). Because Lecythophora sp. AK0013 remains sterile in culture on standard media, we used molecular data to characterize this isolate as an unidentified species of Lecythophora (Pezizomycotina, Sordariomycetes, Coniochaetales, Coniochaetaceae). Lecythophora species (teleomorph Coniochaeta) have a wide range of ecological roles. Some species are associated with mammal dung; others are plant-associated saprotrophs (causing soft rots of wood) and pathogens. In addition, some species are opportunistic pathogens of humans (e.g., L. hoffmannii, L. mutabilis). Traditionally, Lecythophora is considered to associate only rarely with non-woody plants (see Damm et al. 2010); however, Lecythophora sp. AK0013 represents an endophyte genotype that was found in healthy thalli of 13 lichen species encompassing all major lichen growth forms and substrates, and in two species of mosses. The genotype also occurs in a wide range of biogeographic provinces, including high- montane sites in Arizona and North Carolina, as well as boreal and sub-alpine sites in Alaska (U’Ren et al. 2012), and thus provides an intriguing opportunity to examine genomic factors associated with a wide host- and geographic range. Other sequenced isolates in this family (e.g., Coniochaeta ligniaria) are wood- degrading fungi. As an endophyte, Lecythophora sp. AK0013 represents a distinctive ecological niche that will be useful for comparative genomic studies on the evolution of fungal nutritional modes.
Damm, U., P.H. Fourie & P.W. Crous. 2010. Coniochaeta (Lecythophora), Collophora gen. nov. and Phaeomoniella species associated with wood necroses of Prunus trees. Persoonia 24: 60–80.
U’Ren, J. M., F. Lutzoni, J. Miadlikowska, A. Laetsch & A. E. Arnold. 2012. Host- and geographic structure of endophytic and endolichenic fungi at a continental scale. American Journal of Botany. 99: 898–914.