Genomes of Subaerial Zygnematophyceae Provide Insights into Land Plant Evolution

Cell. 2019 Nov 14;179(5):1057-1067.e14. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.10.019.


The transition to a terrestrial environment, termed terrestrialization, is generally regarded as a pivotal event in the evolution and diversification of the land plant flora that changed the surface of our planet. Through phylogenomic studies, a group of streptophyte algae, the Zygnematophyceae, have recently been recognized as the likely sister group to land plants (embryophytes). Here, we report genome sequences and analyses of two early diverging Zygnematophyceae (Spirogloea muscicola gen. nov. and Mesotaenium endlicherianum) that share the same subaerial/terrestrial habitat with the earliest-diverging embryophytes, the bryophytes. We provide evidence that genes (i.e., GRAS and PYR/PYL/RCAR) that increase resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses in land plants, in particular desiccation, originated or expanded in the common ancestor of Zygnematophyceae and embryophytes, and were gained by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from soil bacteria. These two Zygnematophyceae genomes represent a cornerstone for future studies to understand the underlying molecular mechanism and process of plant terrestrialization.

Keywords: GRAS; PYR/PYL/RCAR; Spirogloeophycidae; Zygnematophyceae; evolution of land plants; genome sequences; horizontal gene transfer; phylogenomics; soil bacteria.

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / pharmacology
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Embryophyta / genetics*
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Multigene Family
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Protein Domains
  • Streptophyta / classification
  • Streptophyta / genetics*
  • Symbiosis / genetics
  • Synteny / genetics


  • Plant Proteins
  • Abscisic Acid