Natural Products from Bryophytes: From Basic Biology to Biotechnological Applications

Armin Horn, Arnaud Pascal, Isidora Lončarević, Raíssa Volpatto Marques, Yi Lu, Sissi Miguel, Frederic Bourgaud, Margrét Thorsteinsdóttir, Nils Cronberg, Jörg D. Becker, Ralf Reski, Henrik T. Simonsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Natural products from plants have served mankind in a wide range of applications, such as medicines, perfumes, or flavoring agents. For this reason, synthesis, regulation and function of plant-derived chemicals, as well as the evolution of metabolic diversity, has attracted researchers all around the world. In particular, vascular plants have been subject to such analyses due to prevalent characteristics such as appearance, fragrance, and ecological settings. In contrast, bryophytes, constituting the second largest group of plants in terms of species number, have been mostly overlooked in this regard, potentially due to their seemingly tiny, simple and obscure nature. However, the identification of highly interesting chemicals from bryophytes with potential for biotechnological exploitation is changing this perception. Bryophytes offer a high degree of biochemical complexity, as a consequence of their ecological and genetic diversification, which enable them to prosper in various, often very harsh habitats. The number of bioactive compounds isolated from bryophytes is growing rapidly. The rapidly increasing wealth of bryophyte genetics opens doors to functional and comparative genomics approaches, including disentangling of the biosynthesis of potentially interesting chemicals, mining for novel gene families and tracing the evolutionary history of metabolic pathways. Throughout the last decades, the moss Physcomitrella (Physcomitrium patens) has moved from being a model plant together with Marchantia polymorpha in fundamental biology into an attractive host for the production of biotechnologically relevant compounds such as biopharmaceuticals. In the future, bryophytes like the moss P. patens might also be attractive candidates for the production of novel bryophyte-derived chemicals of commercial interest. This review provides a comprehensive overview of natural product research in bryophytes from different perspectives together with biotechnological advances throughout the last decade.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Reviews in Plant Sciences
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)191-217
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Bryophytes
  • Industrial biotechnology
  • Natural products
  • Physcomitrella patens
  • Plant biotechnology


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