Community Analysis Reveals Close Affinities Between Endophytic and Endolichenic Fungi in Mosses and Lichens
AIM The aim of this study was to investigate the nature and bioactivities of endolichenic fungi in three abundant lichens, Pseudocyphellaria sp., Usnea sp. and Parmotrema sp. in the lower elevation of Hakgala montane forest in Sri Lanka. METHODS AND RESULTS Endolichenic fungal strains, fungi that live asymptomatically in the lichen thallus, much the same way as endophytic fungi live within healthy plant tissues, were isolated from three abundant lichen species, Pseudocyphellaria sp., Usnea sp. and Parmotrema sp., at Hakgala montane forest in Sri Lanka, using the surface sterilization method. Nine endolichenic fungal strains were isolated from Parmotrema sp. and Usnea sp. separately, while 11 endolichenic fungi were recovered from the lichen Pseudocyphellaria sp. Isolation of endolichenic fungus Chrysosporium sp. 2 was common to all three lichen species. Substrate utilization patterns and antifungal activities of eight endolichenic fungal species were evaluated and the results revealed that all the test fungi were able to produce at least one enzyme to utilize the test substrates. Nigrospora sp., Chrysosporium sp. 1 and 2 and Cladosporium sp. showed antifungal activities on growth of some selected plant pathogenic fungi. CONCLUSIONS Endolichenic fungal strains (29) were isolated from the lichens Parmotrema sp., Usnea sp. and Pseudocyphellaria sp. in Sri Lanka. Chrysosporium sp. 2 was common in all three lichens. Some of these endolichenic fungal strains showed antifungal activities against common plant pathogenic fungi and they are capable of utilizing the substrates by producing specific enzymes. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY The diversity and prevalence of the endolichenic fungi have not been studied extensively and this is the first report of isolation and identification of endolichenic fungi in lichens available in Sri Lanka.