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Concept: Mosses


Cyanobacteria-plant symbioses play an important role in many ecosystems due to the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen (N) by the cyanobacterial symbiont. The ubiquitous feather moss Pleurozium schreberi (Brid.) Mitt. is colonized by cyanobacteria in boreal systems with low N deposition. Here, cyanobacteria fix substantial amounts of N2 and represent a potential N source. The feather moss appears to be resistant to decomposition, which could be partly a result of toxins produced by cyanobacteria. To assess how cyanobacteria modulated the toxicity of moss, we measured inhibition of bacterial growth. Moss with varying numbers of cyanobacteria was added to soil bacteria to test the inhibition of their growth using the thymidine incorporation technique. Moss could universally inhibit bacterial growth, but moss toxicity did not increase with N2 fixation rates (numbers of cyanobacteria). Instead, we see evidence for a negative relationship between moss toxicity to bacteria and N2 fixation, which could be related to the ecological mechanisms that govern the cyanobacteria - moss relationship. We conclude that cyanobacteria associated with moss do not contribute to the resistance to decomposition of moss, and from our results emerges the question as to what type of relationship the moss and cyanobacteria share.

Concepts: Cyanobacteria, Oxygen, Bacteria, Evolution, Plant, Symbiosis, Nitrogen, Mosses


Nitrogen (N2) fixation is a major source of available N in ecosystems that receive low amounts of atmospheric N deposition. In boreal forest and subarctic tundra, the feather moss Hylocomium splendens is colonized by N2 fixing cyanobacteria that could contribute fundamentally to increase the N pool in these ecosystems. However, N2 fixation in mosses is inhibited by N input. Although this has been shown previously, the ability of N2 fixation to grow less sensitive towards repeated, increased N inputs remains unknown. Here, we tested if N2 fixation in H. splendens can recover from increased N input depending on the N load (0, 5, 20, 80, 320 kg N ha-1 yr-1) after a period of N deprivation, and if sensitivity towards increased N input can decrease after repeated N additions. Nitrogen fixation in the moss was inhibited by the highest N addition, but was promoted by adding 5 kg N ha-1 yr-1, and increased in all treatments during a short period of N deprivation. The sensitivity of N2 fixation towards repeated N additions seem to decrease in the 20 and 80 kg N additions, but increased in the highest N addition (320 kg N ha-1 yr-1). Recovery of N in leachate samples increased with increasing N loads, suggesting low retention capabilities of mosses if N input is above 5 kg N ha-1 yr-1. Our results demonstrate that the sensitivity towards repeated N additions is likely to decrease if N input does not exceed a certain threshold.

Concepts: Plant, Nitrogen, Addition, Nitrogen fixation, Multiplication, Taiga, Mosses


Dinitrogen (N2)-fixation by cyanobacteria living in symbiosis with pleurocarpous feather mosses (for example, Pleurozium schreberi and Hylocomium splendens) represents the main pathway of biological N input into N-depleted boreal forests. Little is known about the role of the cyanobacterial community in contributing to the observed temporal variability of N2-fixation. Using specific nifH primers targeting four major cyanobacterial clusters and quantitative PCR, we investigated how community composition, abundance and nifH expression varied by moss species and over the growing seasons. We evaluated N2-fixation rates across nine forest sites in June and September and explored the abundance and nifH expression of individual cyanobacterial clusters when N2-fixation is highest. Our results showed temporal and host-dependent variations of cyanobacterial community composition, nifH gene abundance and expression. N2-fixation was higher in September than June for both moss species, explained by higher nifH gene expression of individual clusters rather than higher nifH gene abundance or differences in cyanobacterial community composition. In most cases, ‘Stigonema cluster’ made up less than 29% of the total cyanobacterial community, but accounted for the majority of nifH gene expression (82-94% of total nifH expression), irrespective of sampling date or moss species. Stepwise multiple regressions showed temporal variations in N2-fixation being greatly explained by variations in nifH expression of the ‘Stigonema cluster’. These results suggest that Stigonema is potentially the most influential N2-fixer in symbiosis with boreal forest feather mosses.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Evolution, Molecular biology, Organism, Plant, Mosses


Mosses are among the earliest branching embryophytes and probably originated not later than the early Ordovician when atmospheric CO2 was higher and O2 was lower than today. The C3 biochemistry and physiology of their photosynthesis suggests, by analogy with tracheophytes, that growth of extant bryophytes in high CO2 approximating Ordovician values would increase the growth rate. This occurs for many mosses, including Physcomitrella patens in suspension culture, although recently published transcriptomic data on this species at high CO2 and present-day CO2 show down-regulation of the transcription of several genes related to photosynthesis. It would be useful if transcriptomic (and proteomic) data comparing growth conditions are linked to measurements of growth and physiology on the same, or parallel, cultures. Mosses (like later-originating embryophytes) have been subject to changes in bulk atmospheric CO2 and O2 throughout their existence, with evidence, albeit limited, for positive selection of moss Rubisco. Extant mosses are subject to a large range of CO2 and O2 concentrations in their immediate environments, especially aquatic mosses, and mosses are particularly influenced by CO2 generated by, and O2 consumed by, soil chemoorganotrophy from organic C produced by tracheophytes (if present) and bryophytes.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Plant, Bryophyte, Embryophyte, Moss, Marchantiophyta, Physcomitrella patens, Mosses


Metals deposited into ecosystems are non-degradable and become one of the major toxic agents which accumulate in habitats. Thus, their concentration requires precise monitoring. To evaluate pollution around a chlor-alkali plant, a glass smelter, two power plants and a ceramic and porcelain factory, we selected terrestrial mosses with different life forms: the orthotropic and endohydric Polytrichum commune and plagiotropic and ectohydric Pleurozium schreberi. Metal concentrations were determined in both species growing together at sites situated at various distances approximately 0.75, 1.5, 3 and 6 km from polluters. MARS analysis evaluated different tendencies of both species for Cd, Co and Pb accumulation depending on the distance from the emitter. In P. schreberi, the concentration of these metals diminished relatively rapidly with an increasing distance from the emitter up to 3000 m and then stabilised. For P. commune, a steady decrease could be observed with increasing the distance up to 6000 m. PCCA ordination explained that both species from the vicinity of the chlor-alkali plant were correlated with the highest Co, Cr, Cu, Fe and Pb as well as Mn and Ni concentrations in their tissues. The mosses from sites closest to both power plants were correlated with the highest Cd and Zn concentrations. P. commune contained significantly higher Cd, Cr, Ni, Pb and Zn concentrations compared to P. schreberi. This may be caused by the lamellae found in the leaves of P. commune which increase the surface area of the possible aerial absorption of contaminants. Soil may also be an additional source of metals, and it affects the uptake in endohydric P. commune more than in ectohydric P. schreberi. However, the precise explanation of these relations needs further investigation.

Concepts: Iron, Plant, Metal, Copper, Pollution, Moss, Mosses, Polytrichum commune


Momilactones, which are diterpenoid phytoalexins with antimicrobial and allelopathic functions, have been found only in rice and the moss Hypnum plumaeforme. Although these two evolutionarily distinct plant species are thought to produce momilactones as a chemical defence, the momilactone biosynthetic pathway in H. plumaeforme has been unclear. Here, we identified a gene encoding syn-pimara-7,15-diene synthase (HpDTC1) responsible for the first step of momilactone biosynthesis in the moss. HpDTC1 is a bifunctional diterpene cyclase that catalyses a two-step cyclization reaction of geranylgeranyl diphosphate to syn-pimara-7,15-diene. HpDTC1 transcription was up-regulated in response to abiotic and biotic stress treatments. HpDTC1 promoter-GUS analysis in transgenic Physcomitrella patens showed similar transcriptional responses as H. plumaeforme to the stresses, suggesting that a common response system to stress exists in mosses. Jasmonic acid (JA), a potent signalling molecule for inducing plant defences, could not activate HpDTC1 expression. In contrast, 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid, an oxylipin precursor of JA in vascular plants, enhanced HpDTC1 expression and momilactone accumulation, implying that as-yet-unknown oxylipins could regulate momilactone biosynthesis in H. plumaeforme. These results demonstrate the existence of an evolutionarily conserved chemical defence system utilizing momilactones and suggest the molecular basis of the regulation for inductive production of momilactones in H. plumaeforme.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Amino acid, Molecular biology, Plant, Moss, Mosses


Mosses, dominant elements in the vegetation of polar and alpine regions, have well-developed stress tolerance features permitting cryptobiosis. However, direct regeneration after longer periods of cryptobiosis has been demonstrated only from herbarium and frozen material preserved for 20 years at most [1]. Recent field observations of new moss growth on the surface of small moss clumps re-exposed from a cold-based glacier after about 400 years of ice cover have been accompanied by regeneration in culture from homogenised material [2], but there are no reported instances of regrowth occurring directly from older preserved material.

Concepts: Glacier, English-language films, Antarctica, Moss, Glaciology, Mosses


Recent innovations in high-throughput DNA sequencing methodology (next generation sequencing technologies [NGS]) allow for the generation of large amounts of high quality data that may be particularly critical for resolving ambiguous relationships such as those resulting from rapid radiations. Application of NGS technology to bryology is limited to assembling entire nuclear or organellar genomes of selected exemplars of major lineages (e.g., classes). Here we outline how organellar genomes and the entire nuclear ribosomal DNA repeat can be obtained from minimal amounts of moss tissue via small-scale 454 GS FLX sequencing. We sampled two Funariaceae species, Funaria hygrometrica and Entosthodon obtusus, and assembled nearly complete organellar genomes and the whole nuclear ribosomal DNA repeat unit (18S-ITS1-5.8S-ITS2-26S-IGS1-5S-IGS2) for both taxa. Sequence data from these species were compared to sequences from another Funariaceae species, Physcomitrella patens, revealing low overall degrees of divergence of the organellar genomes and nrDNA genes with substitutions spread rather evenly across their length, and high divergence within the external spacers of the nrDNA repeat. Furthermore, we detected numerous microsatellites among the 454 assemblies. This study demonstrates that NGS methodology can be applied to mosses to target large genomic regions and identify microsatellites.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genome, DNA sequencing, Moss, Physcomitrella patens, Funariaceae, Mosses


This protocol describes a quantitative analysis of the morphology of small plants from the moss Physcomitrella patens. The protocol can be used for the analysis of growth phenotypes produced by transient RNA interference or for the analysis of stable mutant plants. Information is presented to guide the investigator in the choice of vectors and basic conditions to perform transient RNA interference in moss. Detailed directions and examples for fluorescence image acquisition of small regenerating moss plants are provided. Instructions for the use of an ImageJ-based macro for quantitative morphological analysis of these plants are also provided.

Concepts: Gene, Bacteria, Genome, Moss, Physcomitrella patens, Mosses, Ralf Reski, Physcomitrella


Bryophytes achieve substantial biomass and play several key functional roles in boreal forests that can influence how carbon © and nitrogen (N) cycling respond to atmospheric deposition of reactive nitrogen (Nr). They associate with cyanobacteria that fix atmospheric N2, and downregulation of this process may offset anthropogenic Nr inputs to boreal systems. Bryophytes also promote soil C accumulation by thermally insulating soils, and changes in their biomass influence soil C dynamics. Using a unique large-scale (0.1 ha forested plots), long-term experiment (16 years) in northern Sweden where we simulated anthropogenic Nr deposition, we measured the biomass and N2-fixation response of two bryophyte species, the feather mosses Hylocomium splendens and Pleurozium schreberi. Our data show that the biomass declined for both species; however, N2-fixation rates per unit mass and per unit area declined only for H. splendens. The low and high treatments resulted in a 29% and 54% reduction in total feather moss biomass, and a 58% and 97% reduction in total N2-fixation rate per unit area, respectively. These results help to quantify the sensitivity of feather moss biomass and N2 fixation to chronic Nr deposition, which is relevant for modelling ecosystem C and N balances in boreal ecosystems.

Concepts: Plant, Soil, Nitrogen, Ecosystem, Bryophyte, Moss, Marchantiophyta, Mosses