As is true with animal species, plants also have an associated microflora including endophytes as well as microbes associated with the phyllosphere and rhizosphere (plant surfaces) and this is considered the plant microbiome. However, those organisms within virtually all tissues and organs of the plant are known as endophytes. Most often fungi are the most frequently recovered endophytes from plant tissues, but bacterial forms generally occur in greater numbers, but not in species varieties. The exact biological/biochemical role of the endophyte in the plant and how it interacts with the plant and other endophytes and plant associated organisms has not been intensely and carefully examined. However, this has not stopped investigators in exploring the direct utility of endophytes in boosting plant production, and discovering that endophytes can directly influence the plant to resist temperature extremes, drought, as well as the presence of disease causing organisms. Also, because of the relationships that endophytes seem to have with their host plants, they make a myriad of biologically active compounds some of which are classified as antibiotics, antioxidants, anticancer agents, volatile antimicrobial agents, immunosuppressive compounds, plant growth promoting agents, and insecticides. These endophytic compounds represent a wide range of organic molecules including terpenoids, peptides, carbohydrates, aromatics, hydrocarbons and others and it seems that these compounds may have a role in the host microbe relationship. Most recently and quite surprisingly, some endophytes have been discovered that make hydrocarbons of the types found in diesel and gasoline fuels. In addition, recently discovered are epigenetic factors relating to the biology and biochemistry of endophytes. Interestingly, only about 1–2% of the entire spectrum of 300,000 known plants have been studied for their endophyte composition. Additionally, only a few plants have ever been completely studied including all tissues for the microbes within them. Likewise, the vast majority of plants, including those in oceans and lower plant forms, have never been examined for their endophytes. Furthermore, endophytes representing the “microbiome” of world’s major food plants as they exist in their native “centers of origin” are largely unknown. This non-classical review is intended to provide background information on aspects of developments in endophyte biology and more importantly the identification of new questions in this field that need to be addressed. The review is primarily based on the author’s long held experience in this field.
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