Provitamin D2, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 were identified in the thallus of a lichen species, Cladina arbuscula (Wallr.) Hale and W.L. Culb. The identification of vitamin D3 was supported by: (1) co-chromatography in both reverse and straight phase HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography), (2) ultraviolet absorption spectrum, and (3) molecular ion peaks demonstrated by ESI (electrospray ionisation) mass spectrometry. The contents of vitamin D3 range from 0.67 to 2.04 g g−1 dry matter in the thalli of C. arbuscula specimens grown under different natural conditions, while provitamin D3 could not be detected. The ranges for provitamin D2 and vitamin D2 were 89–146 and 0.22–0.55 g g−1 dry matter, respectively, while the contents of provitamin D3 were below the detection limit (0.01 g g−1 dry matter). When C. arbuscula thalli collected at different latitudes from northern Finland to Greece were compared, a positive correlation of vitamin D2 and D3 contents with modelled UV-B radiation at the collection sites was found. A single sample of C. rangiferina from northern Finland gave much higher values for the vitamins. A possible reason could be the lower content of UV-B absorbing pigment in the latter species.
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