Tortula ruralis, a widely distributed species in the moss family Pottiaceae, is increasingly used as a model organism for the study of desiccation tolerance and mechanisms of cellular repair. In this paper, we present the chloroplast genome sequence of T. ruralis, only the second published chloroplast genome for a moss, and the first for a vegetatively desiccation-tolerant plant.
The Tortula chloroplast genome is ~123,500 bp, and differs in a number of ways from that of Physcomitrella patens, the first published moss chloroplast genome. For example, Tortula lacks the ~71 kb inversion found in the large single copy region of the Physcomitrella genome and other members of the Funariales. Also, the Tortula chloroplast genome lacks petN, a gene found in all known land plant plastid genomes. In addition, an unusual case of nucleotide polymorphism was discovered.
Although the chloroplast genome of Tortula ruralis differs from that of the only other sequenced moss, Physcomitrella patens, we have yet to determine the biological significance of the differences. The polymorphisms we have uncovered in the sequencing of the genome offer a rare possibility (for mosses) of the generation of DNA markers for fine-level phylogenetic studies, or to investigate individual variation within populations.