Diversity of Lichen Photobionts: Their Coevolution and Bioprospecting Potential

  • Khem Chand Saini
  • Sanjeeva Nayaka
  • Felix Bast


Lichens are the symbiotic association of green algae (phycobiont) or blue-green algae (cyanobiont) with fungus (mycobiont). Lichen-forming fungi consist of about 20,000 species, whereas the known photobionts are only about 156 species from 56 genera. A confounding reason for this disparity in the species richness is that most of the lichenologists are mycologists and their focus is on the mycobionts rather than photobionts. Therefore, mycobionts are comparatively well-characterized while the real diversity of photobionts remain elusive. Diversity and phylogeny of major photobiont lineages described till date are comprehensively covered in this systematic review, along with the data on ecology, patterns of phylogeography, and evolution. Current understanding of photobionts described from the Indian subcontinent is summarized revealing significant knowledge gaps in this field. Given that photobionts have relatively simple morphology and morphological plasticity, the relevance of DNA sequence-based molecular systematics for photobiont characterization is highlighted, and other challenges in photobiont research are discussed.


Symbionts Lichenized fungi Molecular systematics Mycobionts Nostoc Trebouxia 



The authors thank the Vice Chancellor, Central University of Punjab, for his administrative help while giving a shape to this review. KCS gratefully acknowledges CSIR, New Delhi, India, for the financial support in the form of JRF. We would like to thank Sanjeeva Nayaka, Lichenology Laboratory CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, for his valuable suggestions. The study was supported by a grant-in-aid from CSIR (No. 60(0114)/17/EMR-II) sanctioned to FB.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khem Chand Saini
    • 1
  • Sanjeeva Nayaka
    • 2
  • Felix Bast
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for BiosciencesCentral University of PunjabBathindaIndia
  2. 2.Lichenology Laboratory, CSIR – National Botanical Research InstituteLucknowIndia
  3. 3.Department of Plant SciencesCentral University of PunjabBathindaIndia

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