The origin of land plants is rooted in two bursts of genomic novelty

Alexander M C Bowles, Ulrike Bechtold, Jordi Paps

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

64 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Over the last 470 million years, plant evolution has seen major evolutionary transitions such as the move from water to land and the origins of vascular tissues, seeds, and flowers[1]. These have resulted in the evolution of terrestrial flora that has shaped modern ecosystems, and the diversification of the Plant Kingdom, Viridiplantae, into over 374,000 described species[2]. Each of these transitions was accompanied by the gain and loss of genes in plant genomes. For example, whole genome duplications are known to be fundamental to the origins of both seed and flowering plants [3,4]. With the ever-increasing quality and quantity of whole genome data, evolutionary insight into origins of distinct plant groups using comparative genomic techniques is now feasible.
Here, using an evolutionary genomics pipeline to compare 208 complete genomes, we analyse the gene content of the ancestral genomes of the last common ancestor of land plants and all other major groups of plant. This approach reveals an unprecedented level of fundamental genomic novelties in two nodes related to the origin of land plants, the first in the origin of streptophytes during the Ediacaran and another in the ancestor of land plants in the Ordovician. Our findings highlight the biological processes that evolved with the origin of land plants and emphasise the importance of conserved gene novelties in plant diversification. Comparisons to other eukaryotic studies suggest a separation of the genomic origins of multicellularity and terrestralisation in plants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 530-536.e2
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2020


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