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Am J Bot. 1999 May;86(5):634-9.

Evolutionary significance of isopreneemission from mosses.

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  • 1University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Botany, 132 Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1381, and.


Isoprene emission has been documented and characterized from species in all major groups of vascular plants. We report in our survey that isoprene emission is much more common in mosses and ferns than later divergent land plants but is absent in liverworts and hornworts. The light and temperature responses of isoprene emission from Sphagnum capillifolium (Ehrh.) Hedw. are similar to those of other land plants. Isoprene increases thermotolerance of S. capillifolium to the same extent seen in higher plants as measured by chlorophyll fluorescence. Sphagnum species in a northern Wisconsin bog experienced large temperature fluctuations similar to those reported in tree canopies. Since isoprene has been shown to help plants cope with large, rapid temperature fluctuations, we hypothesize the thermal and correlated dessication stress experienced by early land plants provided the selective pressure for the evolution of light-dependent isoprene emission in the ancestors of modern mosses. As plants radiated into different habitats, this capacity was lost multiple times in favor of other thermal protective mechanisms.

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