Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

University of Graz researchers challenge 140-year-old paradigm of lichen symbiosis

22.07.2016

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.


The lichen Vulpicida canadensis is common on tree barks in Northern America. As scientists have found out, it consists of an alga and two fungi.

Tim Wheeler/timwheelerphotography.com

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.

Publication:
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).

Contact:
Dr. Toby Spribille
Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Graz
Tel.: +43 (0) 660/839 2918
E-Mail: toby.spribille@mso.umt.edu

Mag. Gudrun Pichler | Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
Further information:
http://www.uni-graz.at

Further reports about: BioSciences Plant Sciences cellular level fungus genome sequencing symbiosis

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas

19.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

New creepy, crawly search and rescue robot developed at Ben-Gurion U

19.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Metal too 'gummy' to cut? Draw on it with a Sharpie or glue stick, science says

19.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>