The appearance of plant organs mediated the explosive radiation of land plants, which shaped the biosphere and allowed the establishment of terrestrial animal life. The evolution of organs and immobile gametes required the coordinated acquisition of novel gene functions, the co-option of existing genes and the development of novel regulatory programmes. However, no large-scale analyses of genomic and transcriptomic data have been performed for land plants. To remedy this, we generated gene expression atlases for various organs and gametes of ten plant species comprising bryophytes, vascular plants, gymnosperms and flowering plants. A comparative analysis of the atlases identified hundreds of organ- and gamete-specific orthogroups and revealed that most of the specific transcriptomes are significantly conserved. Interestingly, our results suggest that co-option of existing genes is the main mechanism for evolving new organs. In contrast to female gametes, male gametes showed a high number and conservation of specific genes, which indicates that male reproduction is highly specialized. The expression atlas capturing pollen development revealed numerous transcription factors and kinases essential for pollen biogenesis and function.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.