BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Physcomitrella Moss Genome Expected to Help In Understanding Potential Climate Change
Published: July 23, 2013
Posted: February 12, 2014

An international team of scientists has re-annotated the genome of Physcomitrella patens, a moss sequenced by the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) that contains about 10,000 more genes than humans. It is widely believed that the information contained in the P. patens genome can help researchers improve crop yields, disease and insect resistance, drought tolerance, and more efficient biofuel production. Researchers were able to provide a functional analysis of many of its previously unknown genes, adding to its value as a model plant and for interpreting other sequenced plant genomes.

P. patens has long been the experimental moss of choice for researchers around the world and was first sequenced by DOE JGI in 2007. P. patens can be more efficiently studied than other plants, mainly due to its accelerated lifecycle, hence short generation time. An international team of researchers from Germany, Belgium, and Japan has worked with the genes of what DOE JGI refers to as a “flagship genome,” a term meaning that sustained and significant computational and experimental resources are directed to this organism. By using the sequencing information from DOE JGI, the team was able to suggest potential functions for 58% of all the genes identified, a large increase over the 41% in the earlier publication.

“One of our intriguing findings is that 13% of the Physcomitrella genes have no clear relatives in any other sequenced organism so far. Analyzing these orphan genes more deeply will reveal the hidden treasures of the moss genome,” said University of Freiburg Chair of Plant Biotechnology Ralf Reski, a senior coordinator on the study. The study’s findings were made available at, as well as further information regarding moss genomes through DOE JGI’s Phytozome.

Reference: Zimmer, A. D., et al. 2013. “Reannotation and Extended Community Resources for the Genome of the Non-Seed Plant Physcomitrella patens Provide Insights into the Evolution of Plant Gene Structures and Functions,”BMC Genomics 14, DOI:10.1186/1471-2164-14-498. (Reference link)

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)

Division: SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)