Living Reference Work Entry

Plant Cell Biology

Volume 20 of the series The Plant Sciences pp 1-32

Date: Latest Version

Genetics and Genomics of Physcomitrella patens

  • Nico van GesselAffiliated withPlant Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg
  • , Daniel LangAffiliated withPlant Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg
  • , Ralf ReskiAffiliated withPlant Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, University of FreiburgFRIAS – Freiburg Institute for Advanced StudiesBIOSS – Centre for Biological Signalling Studies Email author 


For about a century, spanning the eras of early genetics to state-of-the-art biotechnology, the moss Physcomitrella patens has been a popular object of biological research. Meanwhile it has become an established model organism in plant evolutionary and developmental biology, mainly due to a combination of two factors: its phylogenetic key position in the plant tree of life and the sum of its favorable biological features. As a member of an early diverging land plant lineage – the bryophytes – Physcomitrella fills the gap between other models of the green lineage such as aquatic algae and flowering plants. The advantages of small stature and short generation cycles, accompanied by established and reliable cultivation techniques provide researchers with a robust, relatively fast, and easy cultivation for experiments in a laboratory environment. Precise genome engineering is enabled by the moss’s haploid-dominant lifestyle and its specifically high rate of homologous recombination during DNA repair, that is routinely utilized through an extensive molecular toolkit for efficient gene targeting since 1998. Physcomitrella’s genome was sequenced about a decade ago, making it the first bryophyte and even one of the first plants to be chosen for such a whole-genome shotgun sequencing approach. Ever since, the annotation of this “flagship genome” has been subject to constant improvement by an active community through the internet resource which provides a central platform for knowledge exchange as well as bioinformatics data and tools.


Physcomitrella patens Bryophyte Funariaceae Haploid dominance Forward genetics Reverse genetics Homologous recombination Gene targeting Knockin Knockout Gene silencing RNAi miRNA Transcriptome Genome Genome annotation Land plant evolution Genetic map Polyploidization