Deep origin and gradual evolution of transporting tissues: Perspectives from across the land plants

Sjoerd Woudenberg, Jim Renema, Alexandru M.F. Tomescu, Bert De Rybel*, Dolf Weijers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of transporting tissues was an important innovation in terrestrial plants that allowed them to adapt to almost all nonaquatic environments. These tissues consist of water-conducting cells and food-conducting cells and bridge plant-soil and plant-air interfaces over long distances. The largest group of land plants, representing about 95% of all known plant species, is associated with morphologically complex transporting tissue in plants with a range of additional traits. Therefore, this entire clade was named tracheophytes, or vascular plants. However, some nonvascular plants possess conductive tissues that closely resemble vascular tissue in their organization, structure, and function. Recent molecular studies also point to a highly conserved toolbox of molecular regulators for transporting tissues. Here, we reflect on the distinguishing features of conductive and vascular tissues and their evolutionary history. Rather than sudden emergence of complex, vascular tissues, plant transporting tissues likely evolved gradually, building on pre-existing developmental mechanisms and genetic components. Improved knowledge of the intimate structure and developmental regulation of transporting tissues across the entire taxonomic breadth of extant plant lineages, combined with more comprehensive documentation of the fossil record of transporting tissues, is required for a full understanding of the evolutionary trajectory of transporting tissues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-99
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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