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Water‐related innovations in land plants evolved by different patterns of gene cooption and novelty

Bowles, Alexander M. C. and Paps, Jordi and Bechtold, Ulrike (2022) 'Water‐related innovations in land plants evolved by different patterns of gene cooption and novelty.', New Phytologist, 235 (2). pp. 732-742.


The origin of land plants and their descendants was marked by the evolution of key adaptations to life in terrestrial environments such as roots, vascular tissue and stomata. Though these innovations are well characterized, the evolution of the genetic toolkit underlying their development and function is poorly understood. We analysed molecular data from 532 species to investigate the evolutionary origin and diversification of genes involved in the development and regulation of these adaptations. We show that novel genes in the first land plants led to the single origin of stomata, but the stomatal closure of seed plants resulted from later gene expansions. By contrast, the major mechanism leading to the origin of vascular tissue was cooption of genes that emerged in the first land plants, enabling continuous water transport throughout the ancestral vascular plant. In turn, new key genes in the ancestors of plants with true leaves and seed plants led to the emergence of roots and lateral roots. The analysis highlights the different modes of evolution that enabled plants to conquer land, suggesting that gene expansion and cooption are the most common mechanisms of biological innovation in plant evolutionary history.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:25 December 2021
Date deposited:31 May 2022
Date of first online publication:08 February 2022
Date first made open access:31 May 2022

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