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Selaginella genome adds piece to plant evolutionary puzzle
Date:5/5/2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University-led sequencing of the Selaginella moellendorffii (spikemoss) genome - the first for a non-seed vascular plant - is expected to give scientists a better understanding of how plants of all kinds evolved over the past 500 million years and could open new doors for the identification of new pharmaceuticals.

Jody Banks, a professor of botany and plant pathology, led a team of about 100 scientists from 11 countries to sequence the genome of Selaginella, a lycophyte. Lycophytes, which are the oldest living vascular plants, shed spores to reproduce and have a single vascular vein through their leaves, as opposed to more complex vascular plants.

"There are only three families and about 1,000 species of lycophytes remaining. Selaginella has been on Earth about 200 million years," said Banks, whose findings were published Thursday (May 5) in the journal Science. "This plant is a survivor. It has a really long history and it hasn't really changed much over time. When you burn coal, you're burning the Carboniferous relatives of these plants."

Banks said the Selaginella genome, with about 22,300 genes, is relatively small. Scientists also discovered that Selaginella is the only known plant not to have experienced a polyploidy event, in which it creates one or more extra sets of chromosomes.

Selaginella also is missing genes known in other plants to control flowering, phase changes from juvenile plants to adults and other functions.

"It does these in a totally unknown way," Banks said.

Banks said Selaginella's genome would help scientists understand how its genes give the plant some of its unique characteristics. The genome also will help them understand how Selaginella and other plants are evolutionarily connected.

In comparing this genome sequence with others, researchers were able to identify genes that are present only in vascular plants and genes pres
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Contact: Brian Wallheimer
bwallhei@purdue.edu
765-496-2050
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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