Traditionally, lichens have been described as mutualistic symbiotic organisms resulting from the close interaction between a fungus and at least one photobiont (green microalgae and / or cyanobacteria), which is responsible for carrying out photosynthesis, and their thalli are considered as peculiar microecosystems. A recent finding, which deserved the cover of the prestigious journal Science, confirmed the presence of yeasts in thalli, which put an end to the old paradigm that described lichens as the product of the symbiosis between a lichenized fungus and a single microalgae. Previous studies, carried out by this team from the University of Valencia led by the professor of Botany Eva Barreno, have already detected the recurrent confluence of at least two microalgae –Trebouxia sp TR9 and Trebouxia jamesii– inside the thalli of the lichen Ramalina farinacea,

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in populations of the Iberian Peninsula, the Canary Kuwait Email List Islands and North America, combining different microscopic and molecular techniques. They also showed that these organisms respond in a very sensitive and differentiated way to environmental stress and, therefore, their coexistence would be advantageous for the lichen to adapt to extreme environmental conditions. For this reason, the complete genome of the alga Trebouxia sp TR9, which is the most resistant, has been sequenced from a population in the Sierra del Toro, in Castellón. The study published by Plos One reveals the presence of an astonishing diversity of microalgae in these organisms, where many rare or even unknown species are housed, which act as primary producers in the micro ecosystems of these symbioses. “Many of the species found and unknown until now have first-order biotechnological applications,”

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says the Principal Investigator of the project. “Some of them are even auxin producers, which act as natural biofertilizers”, he specifies. The study analyzes both the diversity of microalgae and their community structure, that is, their exact location in the Ramalina farinacea thallus; It does so by applying a 454 pyrosequencing method – a technology that allows a large-scale DNA sequence to be determined using luminescence – and a careful ad hoc protocol for processing lichen samples prior to DNA extraction. The developed methodology has allowed, from a single lichen thallus, to detect the presence of 31 different species of algae, which demonstrates the suitability of the lichen Ramalina farinacea for the study of the diversity of microalgae, and confirms the effectiveness of the method and the technique used by the research group. The ecological importance

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