Molecular Evolution of Grass Stomata
Grasses began to diversify in the late Cretaceous Period and now dominate more than one third of global land area, including three-quarters of agricultural land. We hypothesize that their success is likely attributed to the evolution of highly responsive stomata capable of maximizing productivity in rapidly changing environments. Grass stomata harness the active turgor control mechanisms present in stomata of more ancient plant lineages, maximizing several morphological and developmental features to ensure rapid responses to environmental inputs. The evolutionary development of grass stomata appears to have been a gradual progression. Therefore, understanding the complex structures, developmental events, regulatory networks, and combinations of ion transporters necessary to drive rapid stomatal movement may inform future efforts towards breeding new crop varieties. Trends Evolutionary trajectories of land plants have led to structurally complex and functionally active stomata for terrestrial life. A likely scenario for the emergence of active stomatal control is ‘evolutionary capture’ of key stomatal development, membrane transport, and abscisic acid signaling proteins in the divergence from liverworts to mosses. The unique morphology, development, and molecular regulation of grass stomata enable their rapid environmental response. Evolution of the molecular mechanism behind stomatal development and membrane transport has clearly drawn on conserved and sophisticated signaling networks common to stomata of all vascular plants and some mosses. Understanding this evolutionary trend will inform predictive modeling and functional manipulation of plant productivity and water use at all scales, and will benefit future efforts towards food security and ecological diversity.
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