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Colonization of the land by multicellular green plants was a fundamental step in the evolution of life on earth. Land plants evolved from fresh-water aquatic algae, and the transition to a terrestrial environment required the acquisition of developmental plasticity appropriate to the conditions of water availability, ranging from drought to flood. Here we show that extant bryophytes exhibit submergence-induced developmental plasticity, suggesting that submergence responses evolved relatively early in the evolution of land plants. We also show that a major component of the bryophyte submergence response is controlled by the phytohormone ethylene, using a perception mechanism that has subsequently been conserved throughout the evolution of land plants. Thus a plant environmental response mechanism with major ecological and agricultural importance probably had its origins in the very earliest stages of the colonization of the land.

Original publication




Journal article


Plant J

Publication Date





947 - 959


Physcomitrella patens, ethylene, evolution, phytohormones, submergence, water relations, Base Sequence, Biological Evolution, Bryopsida, Droughts, Ethylenes, Gene Expression Regulation, Plant, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutation, Phylogeny, Plant Growth Regulators, Plant Leaves, Plant Proteins, Plant Shoots, Receptors, Cell Surface, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Stress, Physiological, Water