The uptake and metabolism of arsenate, As(V), as a function of time and concentration were examined in the lichen Hypogymnia physodes (L.) Nyl. Lichen thalli were exposed to As(V) in the form of a solution. Exponential uptake of As(V) from 4 microg mL(-1) As(V) solution was accompanied by constant arsenite, As(III), excretion back into the solution. Arsenate taken up into the lichens from 0, 0.1, 1, 10 microg mL(-1) As(V) solutions was partially transformed into As(III), dimethylarsinic acid (DMA) and (mono)methylarsonic acid (MA). 48 h after exposure, the main arsenic compound in the lichens was DMA in 0.1, As(III) in 1 and As(V) in 10 microg mL(-1) treatment. The proportion of methylated arsenic compounds decreased with increasing arsenate concentration in the exposure solution. These results suggest that at least two types of As(V) detoxification exist in lichens; arsenite excretion and methylation.