Accumulation of DNA damage in Antarctic mosses: correlations with ultraviolet-B radiation, temperature and turf water content vary among species


Sharon A. Robinson, tel. +61 242215753, fax +61 242214135, e-mail:


The susceptibility of three East Antarctic moss species to UV-B radiation was examined by measuring accumulation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers under natural sunlight during the austral summer season of 2002/03. The 2002/03 season was characterized by unusually low springtime ozone depletion and as such our results likely underestimate the DNA damage possible in a more typical UV-B radiation season. Despite this all three species accumulated significant DNA photoproducts. We also found a positive association between photoproduct accumulation and incident UV-B radiation in the two cosmopolitan species, Bryum pseudotriquetrum and Ceratodon purpureus, with more DNA damage in samples collected early in the season compared with later in the summer. For B. pseudotriquetrum, negative associations were also observed between photoproduct accumulation and both turf water content and the 10-day mean air temperature. Photoproduct accumulation in the endemic species Schistidium antarctici was similarly high across the season and no significant association with environmental variables was found. Our results are consistent with the two cosmopolitan species having somewhat higher UV-B-screening capabilities and possibly more efficient mechanisms for repairing DNA damage than the endemic S. antarctici.