RSL Class I Genes Controlled the Development of Epidermal Structures in the Common Ancestor of Land Plants.
Proust H., Honkanen S., Jones VA., Morieri G., Prescott H., Kelly S., Ishizaki K., Kohchi T., Dolan L.
The colonization of the land by plants, sometime before 470 million years ago, was accompanied by the evolution tissue systems [1-3]. Specialized structures with diverse functions-from nutrient acquisition to reproduction-derived from single cells in the outermost layer (epidermis) were important sources of morphological innovation at this time [2, 4, 5]. In extant plants, these structures may be unicellular extensions, such as root hairs or rhizoids [6-9], or multicellular structures, such as asexual propagules or secretory hairs (papillae) [10-12]. Here, we show that a ROOTHAIR DEFECTIVE SIX-LIKE (RSL) class I basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor positively regulates the development of the unicellular and multicellular structures that develop from individual cells that expand out of the epidermal plane of the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha; mutants that lack MpRSL1 function do not develop rhizoids, slime papillae, mucilage papillae, or gemmae. Furthermore, we discovered that RSL class I genes are also required for the development of multicellular axillary hairs on the gametophyte of the moss Physcomitrella patens. Because class I RSL proteins also control the development of rhizoids in mosses and root hairs in angiosperms [13, 14], these data demonstrate that the function of RSL class I genes was to control the development of structures derived from single epidermal cells in the common ancestor of the land plants. Class I RSL genes therefore controlled the generation of adaptive morphological diversity as plants colonized the land from the water.