Evolution of vascular plants through redeployment of ancient developmental regulators

Kuan Ju Lu, Nicole van’t Wout Hofland, Eliana Mor, Sumanth Mutte, Paul Abrahams, Hirotaka Kato, Klaas Vandepoele, Dolf Weijers*, Bert de Rybel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Vascular plants provide most of the biomass, food, and feed on earth, yet the molecular innovations that led to the evolution of their conductive tissues are unknown. Here, we reveal the evolutionary trajectory for the heterodimeric TMO5/LHW transcription factor complex, which is rate-limiting for vascular cell proliferation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Both regulators have origins predating vascular tissue emergence, and even terrestrialization. We further show that TMO5 evolved its modern function, including dimerization with LHW, at the origin of land plants. A second innovation in LHW, coinciding with vascular plant emergence, conditioned obligate heterodimerization and generated the critical function in vascular development in Arabidopsis. In summary, our results suggest that the division potential of vascular cells may have been an important factor contributing to the evolution of vascular plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-740
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2020


  • Heterodimerization
  • Plant evolution
  • Plant vascular tissues
  • TMO5/LHW
  • Tracheophytes


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