Thalli of epiphytic lichen Hypogymnia physodes (L.) Nyl. and terricolous Cladonia furcata (Huds.) Schrad., collected from an area with background arsenic concentrations, were exposed to 0, 0.1, 1 and 10 microg mL(-1) arsenate (As(V)) solutions for 24 h. After exposure they were kept in the metabolically active state for 0, 24 and 48 h in a growth chamber. In the freeze dried samples glutathione (GSH), glutathione disulphide (GSSG), cysteine (Cys) and cystine were analysed and induction of phytochelatin (PC) synthesis measured by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography in combination with fluorescence detection or UV spectrometry. Total arsenic content in thalli was measured by instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). In H. physodes, which contained higher amounts of arsenic compared to C. furcata, total glutathione content significantly decreased in samples exposed to 10 microg mL(-1) As(V), whereas in C. furcata a significant increase was observed. In both species PC synthesis was induced in thalli exposed to 10 microg mL(-1).