Large differences in carbohydrate degradation and transport potential among lichen fungal symbionts

Philipp Resl, Adina R. Bujold, Gulnara Tagirdzhanova, Peter Meidl, Sandra Freire Rallo, Mieko Kono, Samantha Fernández-Brime, Hörður Guðmundsson, Ólafur Sigmar Andrésson, Lucia Muggia, Helmut Mayrhofer, John P. McCutcheon, Mats Wedin, Silke Werth, Lisa M. Willis, Toby Spribille

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Lichen symbioses are thought to be stabilized by the transfer of fixed carbon from a photosynthesizing symbiont to a fungus. In other fungal symbioses, carbohydrate subsidies correlate with reductions in plant cell wall-degrading enzymes, but whether this is true of lichen fungal symbionts (LFSs) is unknown. Here, we predict genes encoding carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) and sugar transporters in 46 genomes from the Lecanoromycetes, the largest extant clade of LFSs. All LFSs possess a robust CAZyme arsenal including enzymes acting on cellulose and hemicellulose, confirmed by experimental assays. However, the number of genes and predicted functions of CAZymes vary widely, with some fungal symbionts possessing arsenals on par with well-known saprotrophic fungi. These results suggest that stable fungal association with a phototroph does not in itself result in fungal CAZyme loss, and lends support to long-standing hypotheses that some lichens may augment fixed CO2 with carbon from external sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2634
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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