Life at the limits: capacities of isolated and cultured lichen symbionts to resist extreme environmental stresses.
Lichens are described as a symbiosis formed by a myco- and photobiont, capable of colonizing habitats where their separate symbionts would not be able to survive. Space simulation studies on the separated symbionts of the lichen Xanthoria elegans have been performed to test their capacity to resist the most extreme conditions. The isolated cultured symbiont cells were exposed to different doses of the UV spectrum, and to vacuum. Cultures of both symbionts were analysed by specific vitality tests (LIVE/DEAD-staining detected by Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy). Growth capacity of symbiont cultures on different media was analysed after exposure to extreme environmental stresses. The data obtained support the hypothesis that the symbiotic state considerably enhances the ability of the respective symbionts to survive exposure to extreme conditions, including the conditions of space simulation. Species such as X. elegans may, therefore, be suitable for use as model organisms in exobiological studies.
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