Charophycean Green Algae:  What can charophycean green algal cell walls tell us about land plant cell wall evolution?

(Collaborators: David Domoyzch, William Willats & Markus Pauly)
         Land plants evolved from an ancestral pool of freshwater green algae known as the charophycean green algae (CGA). CGA display morphological forms that are simpler in construction than that of land plants, however, many of the fundamental morphotypes displayed by land plants are also found in the CGA. The cell wall (CW) of land plants is one of the critical structures that must be accurately constructed and modulated during various developmental events and under diverse physiological conditions.  The CW is an intricate network, constructed primarily of polysaccharides and proteins, that is directly involved in the expression of specific morphological forms and in essential functions such as maintenance of structural integrity, cell-cell communication, signal transduction, adhesion and physical/chemical defense. Preliminary investigations of CGA CW polymers indicate structural similarity to those of land plants, suggesting that many of the key morphogenetic events and associated CW-biochemical properties found in modern land plants arose in their ancestors before emergence onto land approximately 470 million years ago. Elucidation of CW biochemistry and development in the CGA is necessary if we hope to understand the evolution of green plants and the development of modern terrestrial plant form and function. The overall goal of our work is to understand the function of CGA CW polymers critical to success of land plants, and determine the evolutionary sequence that led to this result.


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