Lichen Genomics

Genomics Era in Lichenology

Lichens are one of the most fascinating associations on the planet, and yet remain poorly studied. They grow everywhere, from forests to deserts, including ice covered areas, like Antarctica. They are key elements in the ecosystems they live in, proving food and shelter for many species of animals, among many other ecological roles played by lichens. Nonetheless, there are still so many unknowns regarding the lichen symbiosis.

 

As in many fields of biology, the use of molecules has revolutionized the study of these complex organisms, and high-throughput sequencing provides enough depth of data to address equally complex questions.

Lichen thalli pieces can be used directly for metagenomic studies, and allow researchers to perform research regarding the fungal and photosynthesizing partners, and additional associated bacteria, fungi, and archaea. On the other hand, it is possible to isolate the symbionts and generate axenic cultures, i.e., single species, non contaminated cultures, essencial for certain projects in lichenology. 

Current Projects:

- Metagenomic analyses of the Dictyonema symbioses

- Whole genome sequencing of Cora (mycobiont) and Rhizonema 

(photobiont) from axenic cultures

- Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) in Basidiolichens

- Detecting lichenization-associated genes in Basidiomycota

- Cyanobacterial and fungal phylogenomics

Top: Cultures after 6 months and DNA extraction

Bottom: Scytonema, a free-living cyanobacteria, resembles the lichen Dictyonema

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