Commonly known as fire moss, Ceratodon purpureus has been used as a model system to discover novel genes because it can tolerate induced mutations. The fire moss also thrives in a variety of habitats from urban environments to metal contaminated soils such as near mining operations. Part of its adaptability to such diverse ecosystems comes from its ability to use nitrogen as an energy source. The moss has also been shown to be resistant to conditions such as UV radiation, cold, salt and pest infestations.
By sequencing the fire moss genome, researchers hope to identify genes that provide tolerance to high levels of heavy metal contamination. A second potential benefit would be insight on the evolution of land plants.
More than a quarter of a million species of land plants serve as primary producers in terrestrial biomes, but most of the genomic data about land plants has so far focused on a few flowering plants. C. purpureus has both male and female genomes, and providing both these sequences would allow researchers to compare this moss genome with that of Physcomitrella, which produces both male and female gametes. The study would also allow researchers to improve crops by learning how sex-linked genes and reproductive processes could control or enhance plant fertility. Additionally, the information could lend insight into the evolution of land plants.
Principal Investigators: Ralph Quatrano, Washington University in St. Louis
Program: CSP 2010