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The colonization of land by plants was one of the most transformative events in the history of life on Earth. The transition from water, which coincided with and was likely facilitated by the evolution of three-dimensional (3D) growth, enabled the generation of morphological diversity on land. In many plants, the transition from two-dimensional (2D) to 3D growth occurs during embryo development. However, in the early divergent moss Physcomitrella patens, 3D growth is preceded by an extended filamentous phase that can be maintained indefinitely. Here, we describe the identification of the cytokinin-responsive NO GAMETOPHORES 2 (PpNOG2) gene, which encodes a shikimate o-hydroxycinnamoyltransferase. In mutants lacking PpNOG2 function, transcript levels of CLAVATA and SCARECROW genes are significantly reduced, excessive gametophore initial cells are produced, and buds undergo premature developmental arrest. Mutants also exhibit misregulation of auxin-responsive genes. Our results suggest that PpNOG2 functions in the ascorbic acid pathway leading to cuticle formation and that NOG2-related genes were co-opted into the lignin biosynthesis pathway after the divergence of bryophytes and vascular plants. We present a revised model of 3D growth in which PpNOG2 comprises part of a feedback mechanism that is required for the modulation of gametophore initial cell frequency. We also propose that the 2D to 3D growth transition in P. patens is underpinned by complex auxin-cytokinin crosstalk that is regulated, at least in part, by changes in flavonoid metabolism.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Biol

Publication Date





555 - 563.e4


Physcomitrella patens, development, land plant evolution, three-dimensional growth