Researchers are offering new insights into how plant life was established on Earth.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have shed new light on how plant life began on our planet. They have shown that two genes are essential to the world’s plants to protect themselves from fungal infections – a defense mechanism that began 470 million years ago. These defenses have allowed all living things on Earth to survive.
Plants evolved from aquatic algae to survive on Earth nearly half a billion years ago, laying the foundation for life on Earth. Mold was one of the obstacles to this dramatic change:
“It is estimated that 100 million years ago, fungi came into the world in search of food and were most likely found in a dead body flooded into the sea. So, if you, as a new plant, are going to show up in the world, and the first thing you come across is mold that can eat you, you need some kind of protection, “said Mads Eggert Nielsen, a local biologist. Department of Plant and Environmental Affairs of the University of Copenhagen.
According to Mads Eggert Nielsen and research partners of the Department of Plants and the Environment and the University of Paris-Saclay, the totality of this defense can be reduced to two genes, PEN1 and SYP122. Together, they help create a plug-in plant that prevents fungal invasion and fungus-like substances.
We have found that when we destroy these two genes in our model plant, thale cress (Arabidopsis), we open the door to pathogenic fungi. We found that they are essential to make this wall-like cell plug that protects against mold. Interestingly, it appears to be a global defense mechanism discovered in all plants on Earth,” said Mads Eggert Nielsen, lead author of the study, published in the journal iLife.
It comes from a 470 million-year-old plant.
A team of researchers studied the same activity on liverwort, a direct descendant of one of the world’s first plants. The researchers tested whether they could detect the same effect by taking two compatible genes into the liverwort and placing them in thale cress. The answer is yes.
“Although the two plant families Arabidopsis and its subfamily liverwort evolved differently 450 million years ago, they continue to share genetic functions. We believe that this genetic family evolved with the unique goal of managing this defense and became one of the foundations for plant stability in the world,” said Mads Eggert Nielsen.