Phylogenomic evidence for the monophyly of bryophytes and the reductive evolution of stomata

Brogan J Harris, C Jill Harrison, Alistair M Hetherington, Tom Williams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)
187 Downloads (Pure)


The origin of land plants was accompanied by new adaptations to life on land, including the evolution of stomata—pores on the surface of plants that regulate gas exchange. The genes that underpin the development and function of stomata have been extensively studied in model angiosperms, such as Arabidopsis. However, little is known about stomata in bryophytes, and their evolutionary origins and ancestral function remain poorly understood. Here, we resolve the position of bryophytes in the land plant tree and investigate the evolutionary origins of genes that specify stomatal development and function. Our analyses recover bryophyte monophyly and demonstrate that the guard cell toolkit is more ancient than has been appreciated previously. We show that a range of core guard cell genes, including SPCH/MUTE, SMF, and FAMA, map back to the common ancestor of embryophytes or even earlier. These analyses suggest that the first embryophytes possessed stomata that were more sophisticated than previously envisioned and that the stomata of bryophytes have undergone reductive evolution, including their complete loss from liverworts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2001-2012
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number11
Early online date16 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2020


  • plant evolution
  • phylogenomics
  • bryophytes
  • stomata
  • air pores


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