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1 November 2005 Desiccation Tolerance in Bryophytes: A Reflection of the Primitive Strategy for Plant Survival in Dehydrating Habitats?
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Bryophytes are a non-monophyletic group of three major lineages (liverworts, hornworts, and mosses) that descend from the earliest branching events in the phylogeny of land plants. We postulate that desiccation tolerance is a primitive trait, thus mechanisms by which the first land plants achieved tolerance may be reflected in how extant desiccation-tolerant bryophytes survive drying. Evidence is consistent with extant bryophytes employing a tolerance strategy of constitutive cellular protection coupled with induction of a recovery/repair mechanism upon rehydration. Cellular structures appear intact in the desiccated state but are disrupted by rapid uptake of water upon rehydration, but cellular integrity is rapidly regained. The photosynthetic machinery appears to be protected such that photosynthetic activity recovers quickly. Gene expression responds following rehydration and not during drying. Gene expression is translationally controlled and results in the synthesis of a number of proteins, collectively called rehydrins. Some prominent rehydrins are similar to Late Embryogenesis Abundant (LEA) proteins, classically ascribed a protection function during desiccation. The role of LEA proteins in a rehydrating system is unknown but data indicates a function in stabilization and reconstitution of membranes. Phylogenetic studies using a Tortula ruralis LEA-like rehydrin led to a re-examination of the evolution of desiccation tolerance. A new phylogenetic analysis suggests that: (i) the basic mechanisms of tolerance seen in modern day bryophytes have changed little from the earliest manifestations of desiccation tolerance in land plants, and (ii) vegetative desiccation tolerance in the early land plants may have evolved from a mechanism present first in spores.

Melvin J. Oliver, Jeff Velten, and Brent D. Mishler "Desiccation Tolerance in Bryophytes: A Reflection of the Primitive Strategy for Plant Survival in Dehydrating Habitats?," Integrative and Comparative Biology 45(5), 788-799, (1 November 2005).
Published: 1 November 2005

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