• desiccation;
  • lichens;
  • oxidative burst;
  • superoxide


Rates of extracellular superoxide radical (O2· −) formation were measured in 34 species of lichens from different taxonomic groupings and contrasting habitats before and after desiccation stress. All 21 species from the suborder Peltigerineae produce O2· − extracellularly at high rates, even when they are not stressed. In addition, some species show a burst of O2· − production during rehydration following desiccation. Extracellular production of O2· − is almost absent in the species from other lichen groups. In general, production of high levels of O2· − and the existence of an inducible oxidative burst are best developed in species growing in wet microhabitats. Rates of O2· − production are also positively correlated to previously published indices of lichen metabolic activity. Preliminary studies on the identity of the O2· − producing enzymes suggest that they do not possess the classical characteristics of those suggested to produce reactive oxygen species in higher plants. Patterns of O2· − production are discussed in terms of the strategies used by different lichens groups in their defence against pathogenic fungi and bacteria.