Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Plant Biology

First Advisor

Renzaglia, Karen


As one of the first land plant groups to diversify, mosses are central in understanding the origin, diversification, and early function of stomata. Unlike tracheophytes that have stomata on anatomically complex leaves and stems, mosses bear stomata exclusively on spore-bearing organs (capsules). However, stomata do not occur in all mosses and, indeed, are absence in the earliest-divergent mosses (Takakia, Andreaea, Andreaeobryum and Sphagnum), suggesting that stomata originated in mosses independently of other plants. The occurrence of structurally unique pseudostomata in Sphagnum further confounds the resolution of homology of moss stomata with those of other plants. The five studies included in this dissertation are aimed at clarifying the structure, development and evolution of moss stomata. The first study focuses on the sporophyte anatomy and stomatal ultrastructure in two structurally and phylogenetically divergent mosses, Oedipodium and Ephemerum. Oedipodium is the sister to peristomate mosses and the first extant moss with true stomata. This monospecific genus has an elaborated capsule with an extended apophysis bearing numerous long-pored stomata. In contrast, Ephemerum nests within the peristomate mosses and has a reduced capsule that lacks an apophysis and has a few round-pored stomata. Ultrastructure of stomata is similar in these two mosses and comparable to that of tracheophytes, except that the stomata of mosses are not as structurally distinct from epidermal cells as are tracheophyte stomata. Anatomical features such as the presence of a cuticle, water-conducting cells, and spongy tissues with large areas for gas exchange are more pronounced in Oedipodium sporophytes and support the role of stomata in gas exchange and water transport during development and maturation. The second study examines changes in pectin composition during development in the model moss Funaria. Stomatal movement in tracheophytes requires guard cell walls to be strong, yet flexible, because they have to undergo reversible deformation to open and close the pore. Pectins are necessary for wall flexibility and proper stomatal functioning in seed plants. In this study of Funaria, immunogold-labeling using five antibodies to pectin epitopes was conducted on guard cell walls during development to relate these features to the limited movement of stomata in moss. Movement of Funaria stomata coincides with capsule expansion when guard cell walls are thin and pectinaceous. Walls dramatically increase in thickness after pore formation and the pectin content significantly decreases in mature guard cell walls, suggesting that a decrease in flexibility is responsible for the inability to open a close previously reported in older moss guard cells. Because this was the first study to demonstrate changes in pectin composition during stomatal development in any plant, a similar study was done on Arabidopsis to identify the main types of pectins in guard cell walls. Localization of pectins in guard cell walls of Arabidopsis is similar to mosses in the stage they can move, with homogeneous walls rich in arabinan pectins that are required for wall flexibility. This study extends knowledge of pectin composition from stomata of the moss Funaria with limited stomatal movement to an angiosperm in which stomatal activity is crucial to the physiological health of the plant. The fourth study describes stomata development and internal changes in sporophyte anatomy that lead to formation of air spaces in the moss Funaria. Developing sporophytes at different stages were examined using light, fluorescence and electron microscopy; immunogold-labeling was used to investigate the presence of pectin in the newly formed cavities. Stomata in mosses do not develop from a self-generating meristemoid like in Arabidopsis, but instead they originate from a protodermal cell that differentiates directly into a guard mother cell. Epidermal cells develop from protodermal or other epidermal cells, i.e., there are no stomatal lineage ground cells. This developmental pattern is congruent with the presence of a gene ortholog of FAMA, but not SPCH and MUTE, in Physcomitrella. The final study in this dissertation focuses on the enigmatic Sphagnum. Although true stomata are absent in early-divergent mosses, Sphagnum has specialized epidermal cells, pseudostomata, that partially separate but do not open to the inside. To further understand the structure, function and evolution of pseudostomata, capsule anatomy and ultrastructure of pseudostomata were detailed. As in moss stomata, pseudostomata wall architecture and behavior facilitate capsule dehydration, shape change, and dehiscence, supporting this common function. Unlike other moss stomata, pseudostomata collapse along their ventral walls and they lack a substomatal cavity. Similarities to true stomata include two modified epidermal cells with specialized cell walls that separate by cuticle deposition and respond to drying. Pseudostomata may be interpreted as modified stomata that suppressed substomatal cavity formation, which in turn eliminated pore development. However, clarification of the homology of pseudostomata and moss stomata will require genomic studies integrated with physiological and structural data. The studies described in this dissertation significantly advance our understanding of moss stomatal development and structure, and provide a comparison point to better evaluate the evolution of stomata. Moss capsule anatomy coupled with the exclusive existence of stomata on capsules supports the concept that stomata in moss are involve in gas exchange but also facilitate drying and dispersal of spores. Changes in wall architecture coupled with a decrease in total pectin explain the inability of mature stomata to move. Development and distribution of stomata in Funaria provides evidence of a direct and less elaborated mechanism for stomatal development than described in Arabidopsis. Resolving relationships among early land plants, especially hornworts and mosses, the only bryophyte groups with stomata, is critical to understanding stomata evolution. Evaluated together, the results of this dissertation are consistent with a single origin of stomata in land plants.




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