Differences in the susceptibility to light stress in two lichens forming a phycosymbiodeme, one partner possessing and one lacking the xanthophyll cycle

Research paper by B. Demmig-Adams, W. W. Adams, T. G. A. Green, F. -C. Czygan, O. L. Lange

Indexed on: 01 Oct '90Published on: 01 Oct '90Published in: Oecologia


The effect of high light levels on the two partners of a Pseudocyphellaria phycosymbiodeme (Pseudocyphellaria rufovirescens, with a green phycobiont, and P. murrayi with a blue-green phycobiont), which naturally occurs in deep shade, was examined and found to differ between the partners. Green algae can rapidly accumulate zeaxanthin, which we suggest is involved in photoprotection, through the xanthophyll cycle. Blue-green algae lack this cycle, and P. murrayi did not contain or form any zeaxanthin under our experimental conditions. Upon illumination, the thallus lobes with green algae exhibited strong nonphotochemical fluorescence quenching indicative of the radiationless dissipation of excess excitation energy, whereas thallus lobes with blue-green algae did not possess this capacity. The reduction state of photosystem II was higher by approximately 30% at each PFD beyond the light-limiting range in the blue-green algal partner compared with the green algal partner. Furthermore, a 2-h exposure to high light levels resulted in large reductions in the efficiency of photosynthetic energy conversion which were rapidly reversible in the lichen with green algae, but were long-lasting in the lichen with blue-green algae. Changes in fluorescence characteristics indicated that the cause of the depression in photosynthetic energy conversion was a reversible increase in radiationless dissipation in the green algal partner and “photoinhibitory damage” in the blue-green algal partner. These findings represent further evidence that zeaxanthin is involved in the photoprotective dissipation of excessive excitation energy in photosynthetic membranes. The difference in the capacity for rapid zeaxanthin formation between the two partners of the Pseudocyphellaria phycosymbiodeme may be important in the habitat selection of the two species when living separate from one another.