Polyols in the crustose lichen rhizocarpon geographicum

Richard Armstrong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


A lichen is an intimate association between an alga and a fungus and is regarded as one of the best examples of ‘mutualism’ or ‘symbiosis’ involving microorganisms. In lichens which have Trebouxia as the algal partner, photosynthesis by the algae results in the production of the soluble polyol ribitol which is then transported to the fungus where it is converted to arabitol and mannitol. Within the fungus, arabitol may act as a short-term carbohydrate reserve while mannitol may be involved in stress resistance. The crustose lichen Rhizocarpon geographicum (L.) DC., has an unusual thallus structure consisting of discrete granules (areolae) containing the algal component growing in association with a non-lichenised fungal hypothallus that extends beyond the areolae to form a marginal ring. The concentrations of ribitol, arabitol, and mannitol were measured, using gas chromatography, in the central areolae and marginal hypothallus of the crustose lichen Rhizocarpon geographicum (L.) DC. growing on slate rocks in north Wales, UK. The concentrations of all three polyols were greater in the central areolae than in the marginal hypothallus. In addition, the ratios of polyols in the marginal hypothallus to that in the central areolae varied through the year. The concentration of an individual poyol in the hypothallus was correlated primarily with the concentrations of the other polyols in the hypothallus and not to their concentrations in the areolae. Low concentration of ribitol, arabitol, and mannitol in the marginal hypothallus compared with the central areolae suggests either a lower demand for carbohydrate by the hypothallus or limited transport of polyols from areolae to hypothallus, and may explain the low growth rates of this species. In addition, polyols appear to be partitioned differently through the year with an increase in mannitol compared with arabitol in more stressful periods.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironmental and agricultural research summaries
EditorsLucille T. Cacioppo
Place of PublicationHauppage, NY (US)
PublisherNova science
Number of pages2
ISBN (Print)978-1-63117-446-9
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2014

Publication series

NameEnvironmental research advances


  • rhizocarpon geographicum (L.) DC.
  • polyol
  • crustose lichen
  • mannitol
  • ribitol
  • arabitol


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