The desiccation tolerant secrets of Selaginella lepidophylla: what we have learned so far?

Plant Physiol Biochem. 2014 Jul:80:285-90. doi: 10.1016/j.plaphy.2014.04.015. Epub 2014 Apr 26.


Selaginella lepidophylla is a desiccation tolerant plant able to survive complete vegetative tissue dehydration and revive ('resurrect') in water conditions. Vegetative desiccation tolerance is an adaptive feature acquired by S. lepidophylla to withstand the long dry periods in its natural habitat, the Chihuahuan desert. Understanding the molecular basis of its drought stress tolerance may be of great benefit to help in developing novel strategies for improvement of drought stress tolerance in crops. Cell biological (e.g. gene discovery, comparative EST analysis, proteomics, metabolite profiling), ultrastructural and physiological studies have brought modest but already important insights in the desiccation tolerance mechanisms adapted by S. lepidophylla. Until recently, the desiccation tolerant mechanism of S. lepidophylla was related to its high trehalose levels. However, large-scale comparative metabolic analysis between S. lepidophylla and its desiccation susceptible relative Selaginella moellendorffii, unexpectedly revealed that S. moellendorffii contains higher trehalose levels than S. lepidophylla. Interestingly, polyols, such as sorbitol and xylitol are 100× more abundant in S. lepidophylla compared to S. moellendorffii. Whether this is linked to the higher stress tolerance remains to be established. Apart from these metabolites, we will also discuss the ultrastructural features that seem to play an important role in the desiccation tolerance of S. lepidophylla. Finally we discuss desiccation tolerance mechanism in other plant species.

Keywords: Desiccation tolerance; Drought stress; Polyols; Selaginella lepidophylla; Trehalose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Droughts*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Selaginellaceae / metabolism*
  • Trehalose / metabolism


  • Plant Proteins
  • Trehalose