A phenol-enriched cuticle is ancestral to lignin evolution in land plants

Moss are non-vascular plants and do not produce the phenolic polymer lignin, but they do have some enzymes associated with the lignin pathway, raising the question of the evolutionary origins of lignin. In angiosperms, the cytochrome P450 enzyme encoded by CYP98 catalyzes the first irreversible step in monolignol (a lignin subunit) formation. Renault et al. showed that the moss CYP98 gene is critical for cuticle formation, an extracellular polymer required for desiccation tolerance. This result suggests that the “lipid–phenolic matrix present in P. patens may constitute an extant representative of the common ancestor of the suberin, cutin and lignin polymers” that was presumably critical for the transition of plants to land.  Nature Comm. 10.1038/ncomms14713