Bryophytes, the most basal of the extant land plants, diverged at least 450 million years ago. A major feature of these plants is the biphasic alternation of generations between a dominant haploid gametophyte and a minor diploid sporophyte phase. These dramatic differences in form and function occur in a constant genetic background, raising the question of whether the switch from gametophyte-to-sporophyte development reflects major changes in the spectrum of genes being expressed or alternatively whether only limited changes in gene expression occur and the differences in plant form are due to differences in how the gene products are put together. This study performed replicated microarray analyses of RNA from several thousand dissected and developmentally staged sporophytes of the moss Physcomitrella patens, allowing analysis of the transcriptomes of the sporophyte and early gametophyte, as well as the early stages of moss sporophyte development. The data indicate that more significant changes in transcript profile occur during the switch from gametophyte to sporophyte than recently reported, with over 12% of the entire transcriptome of P. patens being altered during this major developmental transition. Analysis of the types of genes contributing to these differences supports the view of the early sporophyte being energetically and nutritionally dependent on the gametophyte, provides a profile of homologues to genes involved in angiosperm stomatal development and physiology which suggests a deeply conserved mechanism of stomatal control, and identifies a novel series of transcription factors associated with moss sporophyte development.
Keywords: Alternation of generations; Physcomitrella; gametophyte; microarray; moss; sporophyte; stomata..