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News Release 08-084

When Plants "Think" Alike

New genetic evidence shows that the same trait developed independently on separate branches of the evolutionary tree

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The primitive plant <i>Selaginella</i> has lignin and cellulose in many of its cell walls.

Both lignin and cellulose are found in the rigid cell walls of the xylem cells (those that conduct water) in the primitive plant, Selaginella.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation; Selaginella cross section SEM by Jing-Ke Weng, Clint Chapple, Purdue University; Lignin structure from Wout Bergjan, John Ralph, Marie Baucher (Annual Review of Plant Biology, Vol. 54:519-546, June 2003); Cellulose structure from http://www.chusa.jussieu.fr/disc/bio_cell/


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Frond of the lycophyte <i>Selaginella moellendorffii</i>.

Frond of the lycophyte Selaginella moellendorffii. Biologists have discovered that a fundamental building block in the cells of flowering plants evolved independently, yet almost identically, in the 420-million-year-old lycophyte lineage. Called syringyl lignin, the building block is a critical part of the plants' scaffolding and water-transport systems, yet it apparently emerged separately much like flight arose separately in both bats and birds.

Credit: Jing-Ke Weng, Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University


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Lead author Jing-Ke Weng of Purdue University.

Jing-Ke Weng, the graduate student in Clint Chapple's lab at Purdue University who conducted the Selaginella lignin research supported by NSF.

Credit: Jing-Ke Weng, Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University


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Scanning electron microscope view of the water conducting tissues of lycophyte <i>Selaginella</i>.

Scanning electron microscope view of the water conducting tissues of the lycophyte Selaginella moellendorffii.

Credit: Jing-Ke Weng, Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University


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Scanning electron microscope view of the stem anatomy of the lycophyte <i>Selaginella</i>.

Scanning electron microscope view of the stem anatomy of the lycophyte Selaginella moellendorffii.

Credit: Jing-Ke Weng, Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University


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