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UV-C tolerance of symbiotic Trebouxia sp. in the space-tested lichen species Rhizocarpon geographicum and Circinaria gyrosa: role of the hydration state and cortex/screening substances

  • Francisco Javier Sánchez (a1), Joachim Meeßen (a2), M.ª del Carmen Ruiz (a3), Leopoldo G.ª Sancho (a4), Sieglinde Ott (a2), Carlos Vílchez (a3), Gerda Horneck (a5), Andres Sadowsky (a2) and Rosa de la Torre (a1)...

Many experiments were carried out in order to evaluate the survival capacity of extremotolerant lichens when facing harsh conditions, including those of outer space or of simulated Martian environment. For further progress, a deeper study on the physiological mechanisms is needed that confer the unexpected levels of resistance detected on these symbiotic organisms. In this work, the response of the lichenized green algae Trebouxia sp. (a predominant lichen photobiont) to increasing doses of UV-C radiation is studied. UV-C (one of the most lethal factors to be found in space together with vacuum and cosmic-ionizing radiation with high atomic number and energy (HZE) particles) has been applied in the present experiments up to a maximum dose analogue to 67 days in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). For that purpose we selected two extremotolerant and space-tested lichen species in which Trebouxia sp. is the photosynthetic partner: the crustose lichen Rhizocarpon geographicum and the fruticose lichen Circinaria gyrosa. In order to evaluate the effect of the physiological state of the lichen thallus (active when wet and dormant when dry) and of protective structures (cortex and photoprotective pigments) on the resistance of the photobiont to UV-C, four different experimental conditions were tested: (1) dry intact samples, (2) wet intact samples, (3) dry samples without cortex/acetone-rinsed and (4) wet samples without cortex/acetone-rinsed. After irradiation and a 72 hours period of recovery, the influence of UV-C on the two lichen's photobiont under each experimental approach was assessed by two complimentary methods: (1) By determining the photosystem II (PSII) activity in three successive 24 hours intervals (Mini-PAM fluorometer) to investigate the overall state of the photosynthetic process and the resilience of Trebouxia sp. (2) By performing high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-quantification of four essential photosynthetic pigments (chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b, β-carotene and lutein) of one sample of each species and dose. Results indicate that the physiological state of the thallus is the most important factor impairing the tolerance of Trebouxia sp. to UV-C radiation in both lichen species. Desiccated thalli were demonstrated to be more resistant to UV-C. No clear influence of UV-C radiation on the carotenoid content was detected. Comparing the respective doses applied, the individuals of R. geographicum are more sensitive than C. gyrosa.

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      UV-C tolerance of symbiotic Trebouxia sp. in the space-tested lichen species Rhizocarpon geographicum and Circinaria gyrosa: role of the hydration state and cortex/screening substances
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      UV-C tolerance of symbiotic Trebouxia sp. in the space-tested lichen species Rhizocarpon geographicum and Circinaria gyrosa: role of the hydration state and cortex/screening substances
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