• abscisic acid;
  • cytoskeletal inhibitors;
  • cytoskeleton;
  • desiccation tolerance;
  • electron microscopy;
  • fluorescence microscopy;
  • microtubules;
  • Physcomitrella patens


  • Set out here is the first generic account of the cytological effects of dehydration and rehydration and exogenous abscisic acid on moss protonemata.
  • Protonemal cells were subjected to slow and fast drying regimes, with and without prior exposure to abscisic acid. The cytological changes associated with de- and rehydration were analysed by light, fluorescence and transmission electron microscopy, together with pharmacological studies.
  • Protonemata survive slow but not fast drying, unless pretreated with abscisic acid. Dehydration elicits profound cytological changes, namely vacuolar fragmentation, reorganization of the endomembrane domains, changes in the thickness of the cell wall and in the morphology of plastids and mitochondria, and the controlled dismantling of the cytoskeleton; these dynamic events are prevented by fast drying. In control cells, abscisic acid elicits changes that partially mimic those associated with slow drying, including controlled disassembly of cytoskeletal elements, thus enabling protonemal cells to survive normally lethal rates of water loss.
  • Our demonstration that moss protonemata are an ideal system for visualizing and manipulating the cytological events associated with vegetative desiccation tolerance in land plants now opens up the way for genomic dissection of the underlying mechanisms.