Project description:Plant genome size varies by four orders of magnitude, and most of this variation stems from dynamic changes in repetitive DNA content. Here we report the small 109?Mb genome of Selaginella lepidophylla, a clubmoss with extreme desiccation tolerance. Single-molecule sequencing enables accurate haplotype assembly of a single heterozygous S. lepidophylla plant, revealing extensive structural variation. We observe numerous haplotype-specific deletions consisting of largely repetitive and heavily methylated sequences, with enrichment in young Gypsy LTR retrotransposons. Such elements are active but rapidly deleted, suggesting "bloat and purge" to maintain a small genome size. Unlike all other land plant lineages, Selaginella has no evidence of a whole-genome duplication event in its evolutionary history, but instead shows unique tandem gene duplication patterns reflecting adaptation to extreme drying. Gene expression changes during desiccation in S. lepidophylla mirror patterns observed across angiosperm resurrection plants.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Desiccation tolerant Selaginella species evolved to survive extreme environmental conditions. Studies to determine the mechanisms involved in the acquisition of desiccation tolerance (DT) have focused on only a few Selaginella species. Due to the large diversity in morphology and the wide range of responses to desiccation within the genus, the understanding of the molecular basis of DT in Selaginella species is still limited. RESULTS:Here we present a reference transcriptome for the desiccation tolerant species S. sellowii and the desiccation sensitive species S. denticulata. The analysis also included transcriptome data for the well-studied S. lepidophylla (desiccation tolerant), in order to identify DT mechanisms that are independent of morphological adaptations. We used a comparative approach to discriminate between DT responses and the common water loss response in Selaginella species. Predicted proteomes show strong homology, but most of the desiccation responsive genes differ between species. Despite such differences, functional analysis revealed that tolerant species with different morphologies employ similar mechanisms to survive desiccation. Significant functions involved in DT and shared by both tolerant species included induction of antioxidant systems, amino acid and secondary metabolism, whereas species-specific responses included cell wall modification and carbohydrate metabolism. CONCLUSIONS:Reference transcriptomes generated in this work represent a valuable resource to study Selaginella biology and plant evolution in relation to DT. Our results provide evidence of convergent evolution of S. sellowii and S. lepidophylla due to the different gene sets that underwent selection to acquire DT.
Project description:The spirally arranged stems of the spikemoss Selaginella lepidophylla, an ancient resurrection plant, compactly curl into a nest-ball shape upon dehydration. Due to its spiral phyllotaxy, older outer stems on the plant interlace and envelope the younger inner stems forming the plant centre. Stem curling is a morphological mechanism that limits photoinhibitory and thermal damages the plant might experience in arid environments. Here, we investigate the distinct conformational changes of outer and inner stems of S. lepidophylla triggered by dehydration. Outer stems bend into circular rings in a relatively short period of desiccation, whereas inner stems curl slowly into spirals due to hydro-actuated strain gradient along their length. This arrangement eases both the tight packing of the plant during desiccation and its fast opening upon rehydration. The insights gained from this work shed light on the hydro-responsive movements in plants and might contribute to the development of deployable structures with remarkable shape transformations in response to environmental stimuli.
Project description:Upon hydration and dehydration, the vegetative tissue of Selaginella lepidophylla can reversibly swell and shrink to generate complex morphological transformations. Here, we investigate how structural and compositional properties at tissue and cell wall levels in S. lepidophylla lead to different stem curling profiles between inner and outer stems. Our results show that directional bending in both stem types is associated with cross-sectional gradients of tissue density, cell orientation and secondary cell wall composition between adaxial and abaxial stem sides. In inner stems, longitudinal gradients of cell wall thickness and composition affect tip-to-base tissue swelling and shrinking, allowing for more complex curling as compared to outer stems. Together, these features yield three-dimensional functional gradients that allow the plant to reproducibly deform in predetermined patterns that vary depending on the stem type. This study is the first to demonstrate functional gradients at different hierarchical levels combining to operate in a three-dimensional context.
Project description:Trehalose is a non-reducing disaccharide that accumulates to large quantities in microbial cells, but in plants it is generally present in very low, barely-detectible levels. A notable exception is the desiccation-tolerant plant Selaginella lepidophylla, which accumulates very high levels of trehalose in both the hydrated and dehydrated state. As trehalose is known to protect membranes, proteins, and whole cells against dehydration stress, we have been interested in the characterization of the trehalose biosynthesis enzymes of S. lepidophylla; they could assist in engineering crop plants towards better stress tolerance. We previously isolated and characterized trehalose-6-phosphate synthases from Arabidopsis thaliana (desiccation sensitive) and S. lepidophylla (desiccation tolerant) and found that they had similar enzymatic characteristics. In this paper, we describe the isolation and characterization of trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase from S. lepidophylla and show that its catalytic activities are also similar to those of its homolog in A. thaliana. Screening of an S. lepidophylla cDNA library using yeast trehalose biosynthesis mutants resulted in the isolation of a large number of trehalose biosynthesis genes that were of microbial rather than plant origin. Thus, we suggest that the high trehalose levels observed in S. lepidophylla are not the product of the plant but that of endophytes, which are known to be present in this plant. Additionally, the high trehalose levels in S. lepidophylla are unlikely to account for its desiccation tolerance, because its drought-stress-sensitive relative, S. moellendorffii, also accumulated high levels of trehalose.
Project description:As a physical response to water loss during drought, inner Selaginella lepidophylla stems curl into a spiral shape to prevent photoirradiation damage to their photosynthetic surfaces. Curling is reversible and involves hierarchical deformation, making S. lepidophylla an attractive model with which to study water-responsive actuation. Investigation at the organ and tissue level has led to the understanding that the direction and extent of stem curling can be partially attributed to stiffness gradients between adaxial and abaxial stem sides at the nanoscale. Here, we examine cell wall elasticity to understand how it contributes to the overall stem curling. We compare the measured elastic moduli along the stem length and between adaxial and abaxial stem sides using atomic force microscopy nano-indentation testing. We show that changes in cortex secondary cell wall development lead to cell wall stiffness gradients from stem tip to base, and also between adaxial and abaxial stem sides. Changes in cortical cell wall morphology and secondary cell wall composition are suggested to contribute to the observed stiffness gradients.