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Journal of agricultural and food chemistry

Influence of seed endophyte amounts on swainsonine concentrations in Astragalus and Oxytropis locoweeds.


PMID 22844873

Abstract

Locoism is a toxic syndrome of livestock caused by the ingestion of a subset of legumes known as locoweeds endemic to arid and semiarid regions of the western United States. Locoweeds contain the toxic alkaloid swainsonine, which is produced by the endophytic fungi Undifilum species. Two chemotypes of plants can coexist within toxic populations of locoweeds: chemotype 1 plants are defined as individuals containing swainsonine concentrations greater than 0.01% and quantitatively greater amounts of Undifilum, while chemotype 2 plants are defined as individuals containing less than 0.01% swainsonine and quantitatively smaller amounts of Undifilum. To elucidate the mechanisms that govern chemotypes, the amount of Undifilum in seeds/embryos was manipulated, thus altering subsequent swainsonine concentrations in three locoweed species: Astragalus mollissimus, Astragalus lentiginosus, and Oxytropis sericea. Chemotype 1 seeds that were fungicide-treated or had the seed coat removed resulted in plants with swainsonine concentrations comparable to those in chemotype 2 plants. Conversely, embryos from seeds of chemotypes 1 and 2 that were inoculated with the endophyte resulted in plants with swainsonine concentrations comparable to those of chemotype 1 plants. This reproducible interconversion between the two swainsonine chemotypes suggests that the quantity of endophyte present in the seed at the time of germination is a key determinant of the eventual chemotype. Additionally, this is the first report of the inoculation of locoweeds with the endophyte Undifilum species.

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