Project (Jan de Vries)
Comparative genomics and early plant evolution

Life on land is dominated by embryophytes (land plants). All of the diversity of embryophytes can be traced back to a single freshwater algal lineage from which the conquest of land commenced. Our lab is interested in the earliest steps of plants on land with the aim of shedding light on the properties that allowed for the success of this unique event. The property that we focus on are the hallmark systems for stress response that land plants—sessile organisms with limited capacities to run away—put to use to overcome terrestrial cues such as high UV irradiance and drought stress. For this, we combine data on land plants and their closest algal relatives.

Recently, we have learnt that streptophyte algae share with land plants the genetic chassis for key stress response pathways such as the phenylpropanoid pathway or abscisic acid-mediated signaling. Now, we will apply a systems biology approach to infer the early evolution of function of these key stress circuits. This work is part of the European Research Council (ERC)-funded project "TerreStriAL". Our future work will entail whole genome sequencing and analysis on selected streptophyte algae as well as integration of transcriptomic and metabolomic data to obtain a wholistic picture of stress-relevant signaling processes and pathways. Within this framework, you will perform de novo genome assembly, de novo genome analyses and annotation, explore stress-relevant pathways and gene family evolution, and integrate multi-omics data onto the thusly established chassis. Ultimately, we will investigate the evolution of key stress response pathways across more than 600 million years of green evolution.

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Delaux P-M, Hetherington AJ, Coudert Y, Delwiche C, Dolan L, Dunand C, Gould S, Kenrick P, Li F-W, Philippe H, Rensing SA, Rich M, Strullu-Derrien C, de Vries J. Reconstructing trait evolution: A guideline for plant evo-devo studies (and beyond). Curr Biol in press

de Vries J, Curtis BA, Gould SB, Archibald JM: Embryophyte stress signaling evolved in the algal progenitors of land plants. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 115: E3471-E3480. (2018)

Nishiyama T, et al. The Chara genome: secondary complexity and implications for plant terrestrialization. Cell 174: 448–464. (2018)

de Vries J, Archibald JM: Plant evolution: landmarks on the path to terrestrial life. New Phytol 217: 1428–1434. (2018)

de Vries J, de Vries S, Slamovits CH, Rose LE, Archibald JM: How embryophytic is the biosynthesis of phenylpropanoids and their derivatives in streptophyte algae? Plant Cell Physiol 58: 934-945. (2017)

Streptophyte phylogeny and the origin of land plants. We use systems biology to compare land plants to their closest relatives (orange) to infer the molecular biology of their shared ancestor (circular inset).
modified from de Vries & Archibald (New Phytologist [2018] 217: 1428-1434)