The versatile moss
The non-vascular moss Physcomitrella patens
diverged from higher plants more than 450 million years ago and is highly tolerant to extreme environments like drought, osmotic and salt stress. Identifying the underlying mechanisms giving this tolerance will supply valuable information on stress tolerance in higher plants. Novel genes involved in abiotic stress protection have been already been identified in Physcomitrella
and these ancient genes could hold solutions for some of problems faced by modern agriculture.
Physcomitrella is also good for another use. It is the ideal candidate for a large scale production of difficult accessible natural products, such as thapsigargin, that is currently being developed into a drug for prostate cancer. The wild plant that produces thapsigargin, Thapsia garganica, does not produce enough to meet the market demands, and it is very hard to cultivate. Therefore we will try to transfer the thapsigargin producing genes into Physcomitrella, which grows efficiently in a cheap and simple media and can be maintained in large quantities in biofermentors.
More info: contact Associate Professor Christina Lunde (stress) or Associate Professor Henrik Toft Simonsen (thapsigargin).