Lichen mycobionts are typical representatives of their fungal classes but differ from non-lichenized taxa by their manifold adaptations to symbiosis with a population of minute photobiont cells. Most interesting are the morphologically complex macrolichens, the fungal partner of which competes for space above ground and contains photobiont cells optimally positioned for gas exchange and illumination. Such thalli are the product of an amazing hyphal polymorphism, with multiple switches between polar and apolar growth and hydrophilic or hydrophobic cell wall surfaces. Hydrophobic sealing of the apoplastic continuum between the partners by means of mycobiont-derived hydrophobic compounds canalizes the fluxes of solutes during the often quite dramatic de- and rehydration processes and keeps the algal layer gas-filled at any level of hydration. The impressive tolerance of drought, heat and cold stress of most lichen-forming fungi and their photobionts is due to a very interesting combination of protective and repair mechanisms at the cellular level, the molecular bases of which remain to be explored. Contemporary experimental lichenology is analysed and strategies are proposed aimed at better integration into mainstream biology.
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