Water-related innovations in land plants evolved by different patterns of gene cooption and novelty (New Phytol)

The availability of genome data from across the kingdom of plants has provided insights into plant evolution, and particularly the emergence of land plants. Here, Bowles et al. explore the genetic origins of three key innovations that supported the expansion of land plants: stomata, vascular tissues, and roots. They investigated the correlation between the emergence of key genes and the associated trait. For example, in some cased the genes predate the trait, and in others they coincide with trait emergence. This analysis demonstrates that the evolution of stomata strongly correlated with the emergence of novel genes, whereas genes involved in stomatal control emerged later than stomata. Conversely, key genes required for lateral root development predate this trait, and gene cooption was the major mechanism leading to the evolution of vascular tissues. As the authors observe, these deep insights into the origins of traits that first provided plants with the ability to thrive on dry land can be leveraged to develop plants with increased tolerance of drought. (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching) New Phytol. 10.1111/nph.17981