A research team including University of Freiburg scientists presents new data on the model plant
The model organism spreading earth moss (Physcomitrium patens, formerly: Physcomitrella patens) has contributed significantly to a better understanding of plant evolution and development. Nevertheless, the currently known genome of Physcomitrium patens still contains numerous regions that are either incomplete or erroneous. An international research team including University of Freiburg scientists has now presented a new, nearly complete version of the genome, showing among other things that the genome of the moss includes only 26 chromosomes, rather than the previously assumed 27. ’Future research on the evolution of the chromosome structure will profit from our data’, says the cell biologist Stefan Rensing , professor for data integration and system modelling of eukaryotic model organisms at the University of Freiburg and co-author of the study.
Characteristics of the first terrestrial plants
In evolutionary terms, the line of mosses in a broader sense (bryophyta) separated from that of vascular plants some 500 million years ago. If we compare the characteristics of the representatives of these two main lines of terrestrial plants today, we can draw conclusions about the characteristics of the first terrestrial plants - in other words, those existing before the evolutionary split. However, this requires the best possible data: ’The better the reference genome, the better the analyses’, says Rensing. Here, the data offer many starting points for future research.
Genes acquired and lost
In concrete terms, the version of the genome of spreading earth moss now presented by the research team means that scientists will be able to deduce with greater certainty which genes in mosses were acquired in comparison to flowering plants and which were lost. Ultimately, this will allow scientists to better understand the evolution of the chromosome structure - centromeres, telomeres, and conserved gene sequences - of terrestrial plants as a whole. ’The methods used are comparative genomics, phylogeny, synteny analysis, and ancestral state analysis’, explains Rensing with regard to the research work.
- Researchers in Shenzhen from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which also funded the project, played a key role in the study.
Original publication: Guiqi Bi, Shijun Zhao, Jiawei Yao, Huan Wang, Mengkai Zhao, Yuanyuan Sun, Xueren Hou, Fabian B. Haas, Deepti Varshney, Michael Prigge, Stefan A. Rensing, Yuling Jiao, Yingxin Ma, Jianbin Yan, Junbiao Dai: Near telomere-to-telomere genome of the model plant Physcomitrium patens. In: Nature Plants (2024).
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477’023 -01614-7
Stefan Rensing has served since 2021 as Vice Rector for Research and Innovation at the University of Freiburg and holds the chair for data integration and system modelling of eukaryotic model organisms at the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy. His research interests include plant evolutionary research. From 2019 to 2023, Rensing coordinated the German Research Foundation (DFG) Priority Programme 2237, ’ MadLand - Molecular Adaptation to Land: Plant evolution to change ’, which is dedicated to studying the terrestrialization of plants some 500 million years ago.