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Development and evolution of land plant rooting systems

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The evolution of the first rooting systems approximately 470 million years ago allowed the growth of the first complex multicellular eukaryotic photosynthetic organisms – plants – on the surface of the land. Rooting systems are important because they facilitate the uptake of every chemical element in the plant body with the exception of carbon. The rooting systems of the putative earliest diverging group of land plants, liverworts, comprised unicellular tip-growing filaments called rhizoids and are morphologically similar root hairs that develop at the interface between the plant and the soil in tracheophytes (vascular plants). The aim of our research is to define the mechanism that controlled the development of the first land plant root system. We are using fossils and genes to gain an understanding of ancient mechanism. A major focus is the identification genes that regulate rhizoid and root hair development from epidermal cells in liverworts and seed plants respectively. Those regulatory motifs that are common to both are likely to have been inherited from the common ancestor of liverworts and seed plants – close relatives of the first plants to grow in the dry continental surfaces sometime in the mid Paleozoic. Recent data suggests that a common mechanism controlled the development of unicellular and multicellular structures that develop from the epidermis in the common ancestor of land plants.

Relevant publications:

1. Proust H, Honkanen S, Jones V, Morieri G, Prescott H, Kelly S, Ishizaki K, Kohchi T, Dolan L (in press) RSL class I genes controlled the development of epidermal structures in the common ancestor of land plants Current Biology

2. Tam T, Catarino B, Dolan L 2015 A conserved regulatory mechanism controls rooting cell development in land plants Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 112 , 3959–3968 doi:10.1073/pnas.1416324112

3. Pires ND, Keke Y, Breuninger H, Catarino B, Menand B, Dolan L 2013 Recruitment and remodeling of an ancient gene regulatory network during land plant evolution Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110 , 9571-90576

4. Keke Y, Bell E, Menand B, Dolan L 2010 A basic helix loop helix transcription factor controls cell growth and size in root hairs Nature Genetics 42, 264-267

5. Menand B, Keke Y, Jouannic S, Hoffmann L, Ryan E, Linstead P, Schaefer DG, Dolan L 2007 An ancient mechanism controls the development of cells with a rooting function in land plants Science 316, 1477-1480

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars series.

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