Lichens and Bryophytes: Light Stress and Photoinhibition in Desiccation/Rehydration Cycles – Mechanisms of Photoprotection

  • Ulrich HeberEmail author
  • Ulrich Lüttge
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 215)


Many mosses and most of the lichens are desiccation-tolerant poikilohydrous cryptogams. By retaining their chlorophyll and their photosynthetic apparatus during desiccation, they are termed homoiochlorophyllous. In evolutionary terms, this is a primary adaptation. Photosynthetic pigments absorb light, whether the organisms are hydrated or desiccated, but energy conservation by carbon assimilation is possible only in the presence of water. When photosynthetic reaction centers remain intact during desiccation, photoreactions threaten to cause severe photooxidative damage. Shading or the production of sun-protectant pigments reduce but cannot prevent photooxidation. Mechanisms of harmless thermal energy dissipation provide far more efficient photoprotection than shading. Zeaxantin-dependent energy dissipation, usually sufficient to protect higher plants against excess illumination, is also operative in hydrated mosses and in lichens, which contain green algae as photobionts, but is not active in lichens with cyanobacteria as photobionts. During desiccation, other more efficient mechanisms of thermal energy dissipation are activated. They involve reversible changes of the conformation of a pigment protein, which facilitate ultrafast dissipation of the first excitation state of chlorophyll outside the reaction centers. Excitation energy is trapped in dissipation centers that are located in the near far-red region of the spectrum. They are connected to photosystem II. Additional protection may be provided by the reversible conversion of reaction centers into dissipation centers. Rehydration inactivates these mechanisms. Insight into the molecular mechanisms of thermal energy dissipation promises understanding of how oxidative damage is prevented in desiccated photoautotrophs under strong illumination.


Energy Dissipation Charge Separation Xanthophyll Cycle Photooxidative Damage Thermal Energy Dissipation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Maximum modulated fluorescence under strong actinic illumination, QA reduced


Minimum modulated chlorophyll fluorescence of hydrated organisms, quinone acceptor QA in the reaction center of photosystem II oxidized


Minimum modulated fluorescence in the absence of water, QA oxidized or reduced

Fv/Fm = (Fm − Fo)/Fm

Quantum efficiency of charge separation in PSII


Photosynthetically active photon flux density




Reaction center


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Julius-von-Sachs-Institute of BiosciencesUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Botany, Department of BiologyTechnical University of DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany

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