Sulfur is in the air: cyanolichen marriages and pollution

Gunawardana D., Wanigatunge R.P., Wewalwela J.J., Vithanage M.M. & Wijeyaratne C.
Acta Biotheoretica
71: 14 [20 p.]
Cyanolichens are symbiotic organisms involving cyanobacteria and fungi (bipartite) or with the addition of an algal partner (tripartite). Cyanolichens are known for their heightened susceptibility to environmental pollution. We focus here on the impacts on cyanolichens due to rising air pollution; we are especially interested in the role of sulfur dioxide on cyanolichen biology. Cyanolichens due to air pollution including sulfur dioxide exposure, show symptomatic changes including degradation of chlorophyll, lipid membrane peroxidation, decrease in ATP production, changes in respiration rate, and alteration of endogenous auxins and ethylene production, although symptoms are known to vary with species and genotype. Sulfur dioxide has been shown to be damaging to photosynthesis but is relatively benign on nitrogen fxation which proposes as a hypothesis that the algal partner may be more in harm’s way than the cyanobiont. In fact, the Nostoc cyanobiont of sulfur dioxide-susceptible Lobaria pulmonaria carries a magnified set of sulfur (alkane sulfonate) metabolism genes capable of alkane sulfonate transport and assimilation, which were only unraveled by genome sequencing, a technology unavailable in the 1950–2000 epoch, where most physiology- based studies were performed. There is worldwide a growing corpus of evidence that sulfur has an important role to play in biological symbioses including rhizobia-legumes, mycorrhizae-roots and cyanobacteria-host plants. Furthermore, the fungal and algal partners of L. pulmonaria appear not to have the sulfonate transporter genes again providing the roles of ambient-sulfur (alkanesulfonate metabolism etc.) mediated functions primarily to the cyanobacterial partner. In conclusion, we have addressed here the role of the atmospheric pollutant sulfur dioxide to tripartite cyanolichen viability and suggest that the weaker link is likely to be the photosynthetic algal (chlorophyte) partner and not the nitrogen-fixing cyanobiont. Keywords: Alkane sulfonate · Cyanobionts · Cyanolichens · Fungi · Lobaria pulmonaria · Sulfur dioxide.
Monday, 22 May 2023 22:57