Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Plant Sciences

Major Professor

Kimberly D. Gwinn

Committee Members

Robert M. Auge, Dean A. Kopsell, Bonnie H. Ownley, Feng Chen


Echinacea purpurea is a native herbaceous perennial with substantial economic value for its medicinal and ornamental qualities. Arbuscular mycorrhizae are symbiotic fungi that form relationships with plant roots and are known to enhance growth in the host. Mycorrhizae and other fungal endophytes often affect stress resistance and secondary metabolism in the host, as well as the ecology of other endophytes in the plant. A newly emerging paradigm in sustainable biotechnique is the targeted use of fungal endophytes to enhance growth and secondary metabolism in crops. Many of the therapeutic compounds in E. purpurea could be affected by fungal colonization. In this research the effects of inoculation of Echinacea purpurea with two classes of fungal endophytes: the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Glomus intraradices and Gigaspora margarita and the entomopathogenic endophyte Beauveria bassiana were evaluated . Endophyte colonization and impacts on plant growth and phytochemistry were tested in multiple greenhouse experiments. Arbuscular mycorrhizae and B. bassiana effectively colonized E. purpurea with some significant interactive effects. Consistent, substantial, and significant increases in all growth parameters were observed in mycorrhizal plants; mycorrhizal plants produced up to four times the biomass of controls in 12 weeks. Broad spectrum changes in fertilization were necessary to produce mycorrhizal and nonmycorrhizal samples of equal size, and severely nutrient-limited mycorrhizal E. purpurea seedlings maintained growth rates comparable to well fertilized samples. Treatment with B. bassiana had minor and inconsistent effects on some plant growth parameters, and there were significant interactive effects with arbuscular mycorrhizae. Phytochemical concentrations in all metabolite classes tested responded significantly to inoculation with both classes of fungal endophytes. Changes were observed in various pigments, caffeic acid derivatives, alkylamides, and terpenes. Many of the affected compounds have important roles in metabolism or have bioactive value as natural products. When considered from a net production perspective (concentration X dry weight), compared to controls, plants inoculated with endophytes produced as much as 30 times the content of some compounds in 12 weeks. This work effectively demonstrates that fungal endophytes can enhance the bioactivity of plant tissues and the production of natural products in E. purpurea.

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