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At the fungal farmer's market, only the best cyanobacteria are for sale
Date:8/21/2009

Lichens are the classic example of a symbiotic relationship. Both the fungal and photobiont components of the lichen benefit from the relationship and often are unable to survive without each other. Recent research by Dr. Robert Lcking (The Field Museum, Chicago), Dr. James Lawrey (George Mason University, Virginia) and a team of colleagues from around the world has put a new spin on this relationship.

In a paper published in the August 2009 issue of the American Journal of Botany (www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/96/8/1409), Lcking et al. explore the possibility of lichens as domesticators, similar to early farmers domesticating grains. By investigating the evolutionary history of a group of cyanobacteria associated with lichens, Lcking and Lawrey and their team have made some surprising conclusions.

Although lichen fungi represent more than 1000 genera, most are associated with photobionts that represent only four genera, one of them believed to be the common and widely distributed cyanobacterial genus Scytonema. However, the identity of photobionts thought to be Scytonema has never been confirmed. Lcking and his colleagues used DNA sequence data to reconstruct evolutionary relationships among free-living members of Scytonema and putative Scytonema photobionts associated with three major fungal lineages.

They discovered that these lichenized photobionts are not members of the genus Scytonema, but form a novel, previously unrecognized, entirely lichenized, lineage of cyanobacteria. The members of this novel lineage, which bears the name Rhizonema, physically appear very similar to free-living members of the genus Scytonema, and members of the two genera can be found close to each otherone lichenized, the other not. Apart from being the first discovery of a completely novel photobiont lineage in lichens using m
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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert  

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