, Volume 198, Issue 1, pp 6–16 | Cite as

The occurrence of the chloroplast pyrenoid is correlated with the activity of a CO2-concentrating mechanism and carbon isotope discrimination in lichens and bryophytes

  • E. C. Smith
  • H. GriffithsEmail author


The organic-matter carbon isotope discrimination (Δ) of lichens with a wide range of photobiont and/or cyanobiont associations was used to determine the presence or absence of a carbon-concentrating mechanism (CCM). Two groups were identified within the lichens with green algal photobionts. One group was characterised by low, more C4-like Δ values (Δ < 15‰), the other by higher, more C3-like Δ values (Δ > 18‰). Tri-partite lichens (lichens with a green alga as the primary photobiont and cyanobacteria within internal or external cephalodia) occurred in both groups. All lichens with cyanobacterial photobionts had low Δ values (Δ < 15‰). The activity of the CCM, organic-matter Δ values, on-line Δ values and gas-exchange characteristics correlated with the presence of a pyrenoid in the algal chloroplast. Consistent with previous findings, lichens with Trebouxia as the primary photobiont possessed an active CCM while those containing Coccomyxa did not. Organic Δ values for lichens with Stichococcus as the photobiont varied between 11 and 28‰. The lichen genera Endocarpon and Dermatocarpon (Stichococcus + pyrenoid) had C4-like organic Δ values (Δ = 11 to 16.5‰) whereas the genus Chaenotheca (Stichococcus — pyrenoid) was characterised by high C3-like Δ values (Δ = 22 to 28‰), unless it associated with Trebouxia (Δ = 16‰). Gas-exchange measurements demonstrated that Dermatocarpon had an affinity for CO2 comparable to those species which possessed the CCM, with K0.5 = 200–215 μ1 · 1−1, compensation point (Γ) = 45–48 μl · l−1, compared with K0.5 = 195 μ1 · 1−1, Γ = 44μ1 · 1−1 for Trebouxioid lichens. Furthermore, lichens with Stichococcus as their photobiont released a small pool (24.2 ± 1.9 to 34.2 ± 2.5 nmol · mg−1 Chl) of inorganic carbon similar to that released by Trebouxioid lichens [CCM present, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) pool size = 51.0 ± 2.8 nmol · mg−1 Chl]. Lichens with Trentepohlia as photobiont did not possess an active CCM, with high C3-like organic Δ values (Δ = 18‰ to 23‰). In particular, Roccella phycopsis had very high on-line Δ values (Δ = 30 to 33‰), a low affinity for CO2 (K0.5 = 400 μ1 · 1−1,Γ = 120 μ1 · −1) and a negligible DIC pool. These responses were comparable to those from lichens with Coccomyxa as the primary photobiont with Nostoc in cephalodia (organic Δ = 17 to 25‰, on-line Δ = 16 to 21‰, k0.5 = 388 μ1 · 1−1, Γ = 85 μ1 · 1−1, DIC pool size = 8.5 ± 2.4 nmol · mg−1 Chl). The relative importance of refixation of respiratory CO2 and variations in source isotope signature were considered to account for any variation between on-line and organic Δ. Organic Δ was also measured for species of Anthocerotae and Hepaticae which contain pyrenoids and/or Nostoc enclosed within the thallus. The results of this screening showed that the pyrenoid is correlated with low, more C4-like organic Δ values (Δ = 7 to 12‰ for members of the Anthocerotae with a pyrenoid compared with Δ = 17 to 28‰ for the Hepaticae with and without Nostoc in vesicles) and confirms that the pyrenoid plays a fundamental role in the functioning of the CCM in microalgal photobionts and some bryophytes.

Key words

Anthocerotae Cyanobacterium Microalga Photobiont Photosynthesis 

Abbreviations and Symbols


carbon-concentrating mechanism


dissolved inorganic carbon (CO2 + HCO 3 - + CO 3 2- )


dry weight


external concentration of CO2 at which half-maximal rates of CO2 assimilation are reached


photosynthetic organism present in the lichen


ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase


carbon isotope discrimination (%)


carbon isotope ratio (%)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Environmental ScienceUniversity of Newcastle upon TyneNewcastle upon TyneUK

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