Field of Science

The Land Plant Tool Kit

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchWe read an interesting scientific journal article in Bryology reading group today and I thought that I would share some of the moss related highlights.

Floyd, Sandra K. and John L. Bowman. The Ancestral Developmental Toolkit of Land Plants. International Journal of Plant Science 168 (1):1-35.

The main point of the paper was to compare the developmental genetics across an array of land plants, from mosses to ferns to conifers to flowering plants. The authors analyzed the functions of the genes in developmental systems (those systems that control how a plant grows and changes through its lifetime) to see how different types of plants use the same genes to perform different functions.

1. It w
as noted that genes present in mosses have been co-opted for different functions in other groups of plants. Basically, this means that rather than new genes evolving the plants utilize the genes that they already have in new ways.

2. The developmental toolkit of mosses has many of the same families of genes as flowering plants. A gene family is a group of genes that are similar to each other, but may have different functions. All the members of a gene family are descendant from an original gene that during the course of evolution was duplicated to produce multiple copies in an individual plant.

3. Mosses typically have fewer members of a gene family than flowering plants. The analyses of moss genetics are based on Physcomitrella patens. This species is the model organism moss. The entire genome of
Physcomitrella patens has been sequenced by the Joint Genome Institute, similar to the human genome project, but for a moss. It is available for use by the scientific community and is also open to the general public on the web. It provides a great resource for scientists to better understand how mosses develop and the genetics behind it. They are also offering a workshop in Freiburg, Germany to learn how to throughly utilize the genome and the computer software associated with it.

Overall I think that it is a pretty cool topic to ponder. Similar genetic systems are controlling the growth and development of both small mosses and large woody plants (aka. trees).

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