Lichens have long been a classic example of symbiosis. Now, that dualistic relationship between an alga and a fungus is being challenged. Together with colleagues from the USA and Sweden, researchers of the University of Graz have shown that some of the world's most common lichen species are actually composed of not one but two fungi. These findings will be the cover story in the July 29th issue of the journal Science.
Lichens, a mutually helpful relationship between an alga and a fungus, have long been a classic example of symbiosis. Now, that well-known dualistic relationship is being challenged. Together with colleagues from the USA and Sweden, researchers of the University of Graz have shown that some of the world's most common lichen species are actually composed of not one but two fungi. These findings are published online on July 22nd and will be the cover story in the July 29th issue of the journal Science.
Thanks to recent advances in genomic sequencing, Toby Spribille, the project leader and a postdoctoral researcher working with Helmut Mayrhofer at the Institute of Plant Sciences in Graz, showed that many lichens contain a previously unknown second fungus, identified as a form of yeast. He discovered the new fungus when he set out to answer why one of two closely related lichen species, common in the western United States, contains substances toxic to mammals while the other does not.
Using short pieces of "barcode" DNA they obtained from their genome sequencing, the researchers began to check other lichens from all over the world for the presence of the yeast. It turned out that the second fungus was everywhere: the research team found it in common lichens from Antarctica to Japan, and from South America to the highlands of Ethiopia.
The fungus had been overlooked by over one hundred years of microscopic studies. Spribille teamed up with researchers in Sweden and the Microscopy Core Facility at the University of Graz Institute for Molecular Biosciences to make the yeasts visible using fluorescent labeling techniques.
"This is a pretty fundamental shake-up of what we thought we knew about the lichen symbiosis," says Spribille. "It's easy to see how it was overlooked. But now it really does force a reassessment of basic assumptions about how lichens are formed and who does what in the symbiosis."
The research team now hope to gain a better understanding of the interactions of the two fungi as a way to understand how symbiosis works. "Basically in symbiosis two organisms get past the urge to compete or repel each other and together form something that wasn't there before", Spribille explains. "Figuring out how they do this could give us fundamental insight into how species cooperate at a cellular level".
The Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Graz is a leading centre in the lichen symbiosis research worldwide. The analyses were realised together with the Institute of Molecular Biosciences and were financed by the Austrian Science Fund and through collaboration with the University of Montana, Uppsala University and Purdue University.
Toby Spribille, Veera Tuovinen, Philipp Resl, Dan Vanderpool, Heimo Wolinski, M. Catherine Aime, Kevin Schneider, Edith Stabentheiner, Merje Toome-Heller, Göran Thor, Helmut Mayrhofer, Hanna Johannesson, John P. McCutcheon: „Basidiomycete yeasts in the cortex of ascomycete macrolichens" Science (online July 22, 2016).
Dr. Toby Spribille
Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Graz
Tel.: +43 (0) 660/839 2918
Mag. Gudrun Pichler | Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care
Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses