Submitted to: Journal of Plant Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2000
Publication Date: 11/1/2000
Interpretive Summary: This paper describes how the development of a model plant system. in this case the simple plant Tortula ruralis, can be of particular use in unravelling the complexities of plant ecology. This paper was also designed to show how molecular level studies can help bridge the gap between disciplines and offer plant models that can alter the status quo or the prevailing paradigms within a field. The paper concentrates on our work on the mechanisms of vegetative desiccation tolerance using the moss Tortula ruralis. The paper discusses our work on the mechanisms of desiccation induced damage, the way the plant responds to this damage and the way gene expression is altered to initiate the repair of the damage. The presentation of our findings to the plant ecology community allows us to challenge this field to take into account the mechanisms by which plants survive severe stress in the development of new theories of habitat selection and plant community dynamics.
Technical Abstract: The development of a complete understanding of how plants interact with the environment at the cellular level is a crucial step in advancing our ability to unravel the complexities of plant ecology. Particularly with regard to the role that many of the less complex plants (i.e. algae, lichens, and bryophytes) play in plant communities and in establishing areas for colonization by their more complex brothers. One of the main barriers to the advancement of this area of plant biology has been the paucity of simple and appropriate experimental models that would enable the researcher to biochemically and genetically dissect the response of less complex plants to environmental stress. In this report we introduce the desiccation-tolerant moss Tortula ruralis, as a model for stress tolerance mechanisms that offers a great deal of promise for advancing our efforts to understand how plants respond to and survive the severest of stressful environments. T. ruralis, a species native to North America, has been the most intensely studied of all bryophytes with respect to its physiological, biochemical, and cellular responses, to the severest of water stresses, desiccation. It is our hope that the research conducted using this bryophyte will lay the foundation for not only the ecology of bryophytes and other less complex plants but also for the role of desiccation- tolerance in the evolution of land plants and the determination of mechanisms by which plant cells can withstand environmental insults. We will focus the discussion on the research we and others have conducted in an effort to understand the ability of T. ruralis to withstand the complete loss of free water from the protoplasm of its cells.