Land plants (embryophytes) make up the majority of the biomass found on the surface of the earth. The biomass of land plants takes form in an astounding species richness. What is the story of their success? One answer is that land plants have evolved adaptive strategies to cope with the challenges of living on land. At the heart of these adaptations are signaling networks that connect stress (input) with the appropriate response (output). The elaboration of these networks is a defining character of embryophytes. But what about the earliest steps of plants on land? To establish themselves on land, the earliest land plants must have overcome the barrage of terrestrial stressors they had to face on terra firma. Only by overcoming these stressors, the story of the success of land plants could have been set into motion. Using comparative sequencing approaches and evolutionary bioinformatic tools, we can read this story from their genes and genomes. Ultimately, we aim to understand which parts of the embryophytic systems for stress signaling were already in place during colonization of land by the earliest land plants.
To do so, we compare data from land plants and their closest algal relatives, the streptophyte algae. From this we can infer which features were present in the earliest land plants.
To investigate the closest algal relatives of land plants, we focus on well-chosen systems and apply a combination of:
- whole genome sequencing using next and 3rd generation sequencing
- functional genomics
- global differential gene expression analyses
- targeted analytics on stress-relevant metabolites in collaboration with the Feussner lab
- classical molecular biology, phenotypical observations, and physiological measurements