Biological Strategies of Lichen Symbionts to the Toxicity of Lead (Pb)

  • Joana R. Expósito
  • Eva Barreno
  • Myriam CataláEmail author
Part of the Radionuclides and Heavy Metals in the Environment book series (RHME)


Lichens are symbiotic organisms, originated by mutualistic associations of heterotrophic fungi (mycobiont), photosynthetic partners (photobionts) which can be either cyanobacteria (cyanobionts) or green microalgae (phycobionts), and bacterial consortia. They are poikilohydric organisms without cuticles or nutrient absorption organs adapted to anhydrobiosis. They present a large range of tolerance to abiotic stress (UV radiation, extreme temperatures, high salinity, mineral excess, etc.) and prosper all around the Earth, especially in harsh habitats, including Antarctica and warm deserts. Their biodiversity is widely used as a bioindicator of environmental quality due to this diversity of tolerance in different species, and they are included in air Pb monitoring programmes worldwide. Their ability to bioaccumulate environmental substances, including some air pollutants and heavy metals, makes them excellent passive biomonitors of Pb. Heavy metal tolerance is related to diverse mechanisms: cell walls and exclusion systems (such as extracellular polymeric substances), intracellular chelators and an extraordinary antioxidant and repair capacity. But recent data show that the most powerful mechanism is related with the upregulation of mutual systems by symbiosis.


Pb Lichens Bioindicators Biomonitors Tolerance Microalgae 



We wish to thank Dr Jon San Sebastián for the elaboration of Fig. 1. This work was supported by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO-FEDER, Spain) (CGL2016-79158-P) and Generalitat Valenciana (GVA, Excellence in Research Spain) (PROMETEOIII/2017/039) and Comunidad de Madrid - European Commission (Youth Employment Intiative, Spain) (PEJ-2017-AI/AMB-6337).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joana R. Expósito
    • 1
  • Eva Barreno
    • 2
  • Myriam Catalá
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología y Geología, Física y Química Inorgánica, (ESCET)Universidad Rey Juan CarlosMóstolesSpain
  2. 2.Universitat de València, ICBIBE (Instituto Cavanilles de Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva) Botánica, Facultad de C. BiológicasBurjassotSpain

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