The moss Funaria hygrometrica has cuticular wax similar to vascular plants, with distinct composition on leafy gametophyte, calyptra and sporophyte capsule surfaces

Lucas Busta, Jessica M. Budke, Reinhard Jetter

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26 Scopus citations


Background and Aims Aerial surfaces of land plants are covered with a waxy cuticle to protect against water loss. The amount and composition of cuticular waxes on moss surfaces had rarely been investigated. Accordingly, the degree of similarity between moss and vascular plant waxes, and between maternal and offspring moss structure waxes is unknown. To resolve these issues, this study aimed at providing a comprehensive analysis of the waxes on the leafy gametophyte, gametophyte calyptra and sporophyte capsule of the moss Funaria hygrometrica. • Methods Waxes were extracted from the surfaces of leafy gametophytes, gametophyte calyptrae and sporophyte capsules, separated by gas chromatography, identified qualitatively with mass spectrometry, and quantified with flame ionization detection. Diagnostic mass spectral peaks were used to determine the isomer composition of wax esters. • Key Results The surfaces of the leafy gametophyte, calyptra and sporophyte capsule of F. hygrometrica were covered with 0∙94, 2∙0 and 0∙44 lg cm–2 wax, respectively. While each wax mixture was composed of mainly fatty acid alkyl esters, the waxes from maternal and offspring structures had unique compositional markers. b-Hydroxy fatty acid alkyl esters were limited to the leafy gametophyte and calyptra, while alkanes, aldehydes and diol esters were restricted to the sporophyte capsule. Ubiquitous fatty acids, alcohols, fatty acid alkyl esters, aldehydes and alkanes were all found on at least one surface. • Conclusions This is the first study to determine wax coverage (lg cm–2) on a moss surface, enabling direct comparisons with vascular plants, which were shown to have an equal amount or more wax than F. hygrometrica. Wax ester biosynthesis is of particular importance in this species, and the ester-forming enzyme(s) in different parts of the moss may have different substrate preferences. Furthermore, the alkane-forming wax biosynthesis pathway, found widely in vascular plants, is active in the sporophyte capsule, but not in the leafy gametophyte or calyptra. Overall, wax composition and coverage on F. hygrometrica were similar to those reported for some vascular plant species, suggesting that the underlying biosynthetic processes in plants of both lineages were inherited from a common ancestor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-522
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been made possible by generous support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Canada), the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the US National Science Foundation (DEB-1146295) and a Katherine Esau Postdoctoral Fellowship to J.M.B.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.


  • Cuticular wax
  • Funaria hygrometrica
  • bryophyte
  • calyptra
  • dehydration stress
  • esters
  • gas chromatography
  • leafy gametophyte
  • maternal protection
  • sporophyte
  • very-long-chain


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