Biologists discover a mechanism in mosses that was crucial for the evolution of ecosystems on land
An international research team has discovered a biochemical pathway that is responsible for the development of moss cuticles. These waxy coverings of epidermal cells are the outer layer of plants and protect them from water loss. The biologists discovered this mechanism that facilitated the evolutionary transition of plants from fresh water to land in the moss Physcomitrella patens.
Mosses cover a tree. An international research team has discovered a pathway with which these tiny plants produce their outer protective layer. Photo: Ralf Reski
The team was led by Professor Ralf Reski from the University of Freiburg/Germany and Doctor Danièle Werck-Reichhart from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) Institute of Plant Molecular Biology (IBMP) in Strasbourg/France and published their results in the journal “Nature Communications”.
Plant cuticles came into being more than 450 million years ago when the first plants colonized the hitherto hostile land masses. Because the waxy cuticles protect against water loss, they enabled the spread of plants on land and the subsequent evolution of our complex ecosystems. The seed plants that evolved later use similar chemical reactions to form the biopolymers lignin, cutin and suberin.
Especially lignification of cell walls contributes to wood production and helps trees to grow several meters in height. In contrast, mosses do not contain lignin and are tiny. It remained unknown which biochemical pathway contributes to the protective layer on moss cells.
The researchers now found that the enzyme CYP98 from the family of cytochromes P450 plays a crucial role: While it initiates the production of lignin in seed plants, it is responsible for the development of a phenol-enriched cuticle in Physcomitrella. When they switched off the gene that is responsible for the synthesis of this enzyme, moss developed without cuticles. As a result, these moss plants were not protected against the environment and, moreover, were not able to form complex tissues: the developing organs fused and their further development was halted.
The researchers could compensate this genetic defect by feeding the plants with caffeic acid, which they identified as the main component of the moss phenolic metabolism. The biologists conclude that the moss cuticle predated the evolution of lignin, cutin and suberin and may therefore originate from the last common ancestor of mosses and seed plants – the prehistoric plants which left the fresh water to dwell on rocks and thus laid the foundation for the development of all current ecosystems on the mainland.
“Our results reveal one of the earliest evolutionary innovations that helped the first plants to survive on land over 450 million years ago,” explains Reski. “It furthers suggests new biotechnology strategies for engineering biopolymers in plants beyond the well-known lignin production of trees.”
Werck-Reichhart and Reski were Senior Fellows of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) and the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study (USIAS) which funded their German-French co-operation project “METABEVO”. Reski holds the Chair of Plant Biotechnology at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Freiburg/Germany. He is a founding principal investigator of the Cluster of Excellence BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies.
Researchers from the University of Strasbourg/France, the University of Victoria/Canada and from Cornell University/USA were also involved in this study.
Hugues Renault, Annette Alber, Nelly A. Horst, Alexandra Basilio Lopes, Eric A. Fich, Lucie Kriegshauser, Gertrud Wiedemann, Pascaline Ullmann, Laurence Herrgott, Mathieu Erhardt, Emmanuelle Pineau, Jürgen Ehlting, Martine Schmitt, Jocelyn K.C. Rose, Ralf Reski, Danièle Werck-Reichhart (2017): A phenol-enriched cuticle is ancestral to lignin evolution in land plants. Nature Communications 8, 14713.
Professor Ralf Reski
Faculty of Biology
University of Freiburg
Phone: +49 761 203 6968
Rudolf-Werner Dreier | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care
Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses