Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 73, Issue 4, pp 723-734

First online:

Ecological and biotechnological aspects of lichens

  • Ilona OksanenAffiliated withDivision of Microbiology, Department of Applied Chemistry and Microbiology, University of HelsinkiDivision of Plant Physiology, Department of Botany, University of Stockholm Email author 

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Lichens and the partners from three different kingdoms are both taxonomically and physiologically a very diverse group, which makes them interesting from both ecological and biotechnological points of view. A lichen is a mutual ecophysiological innovation in many extreme environments in which symbiosis seems to protect the partners. Lichen’s ability to grow in harsh environments can be advantageous, resulting in important ecological niches, or disadvantageous when lichens occupy and cause biodeterioration of cultural monuments. Recently, new candidate compounds for drugs, UVB protection, and antifreeze proteins for frozen foods were discovered. Lichens were also found to have potential in bioplastic degradation and prevention of desertification. Nevertheless, there is still large potential for further industrial screening and research on lichen products. Due to improved culture techniques of isolated symbionts, increased knowledge of their secondary metabolism and improved methods for solubilizing lichen metabolites, the screening and activity tests can be implemented more easily today than in the past.


Lichen Green algae Cyanobacteria Fungi Symbiosis Natural product