An international research team has discovered a mechanism in mosses that was crucial for the evolution of ecosystems on land. They discovered a biochemical pathway that is responsible for the development of cuticles in the moss Physcomitrella patens. These waxy coverings of epidermal cells are the outer layer of plants and protect them from water loss. In the Journal Nature Communications the biologists describe that the enzyme CYP98 from the family of cytochromes P450 is responsible for the development of a phenol-enriched cuticle in Physcomitrella whereas it is known to initiate the production of lignin in seed plants. Plant cuticles came into being more than 450 million years ago when the first plants colonized the hitherto hostile landmasses. Because the waxy cuticles protect against water loss, they enabled the spread of plants on land and the subsequent evolution of our complex ecosystems. The research team was led by Professor Ralf Reski from the University of Freiburg/Germany and Doctor Danièle Werck-Reichhart from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) Institute of Plant Molecular Biology (IBMP) in Strasbourg/France. The results also suggest new biotechnology strategies for engineering biopolymers in plants beyond the well-known lignin production of trees.
media release at the University of Freiburg