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Wibowo, Anjar; Becker, Claude; Marconi, Gianpiero; Durr, Julius; Price, Jonathan; Hagmann, Jorg; Papareddy, Ranjith; Putra, Hadi; Kageyama, Jorge; Becker, Jorg; Weigel, Detlef; Gutierrez-Marcos, Jose (2016)
Publisher: Elife Sciences Publications
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: Research Article, memory, Hyperosmotic stress, epigenetic, adaptation, a. thaliana; adaptation; computational biology; environment; epigenetic; evolutionary biology; genomics; memory; systems biology; Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all); Immunology and Microbiology (all); Medicine (all); Neuroscience (all), Arabidopsis, Genomics and Evolutionary Biology, genome, environment, Computational and Systems Biology, DNA, QK, A. thaliana

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mesheuropmc: food and beverages, fungi
eLife digest Most plants spend their entire lives in one fixed spot and so must be able to quickly adapt to any changes in their surroundings. For example, high levels of salt in the soil – which can be toxic to cells – triggers stress responses in plants that help them to mitigate any damage. Once the stress has passed, plants are able to retain a memory of it, which allows them to respond more quickly if they face the same stress in future. Furthermore, plants may pass on this ‘stress memory’ to their offspring. It is thought that stress memory is programmed by chemical modifications to DNA known as epigenetic marks. These marks do not alter the genetic information that is encoded by the DNA itself, but they can change the activity of particular genes. Environmental stress leads to changes in the epigenetic marks found on many plant genes, which can be directly passed on from the parent plant to its offspring. However, it was not clear whether the epigenetic marks that programme stress memory can be passed on in this way. Wibowo, Becker et al. investigated how a model plant called Arabidopsis thaliana is able to remember periods of salt stress. The experiments show that high levels of salt can trigger changes in the patterns of epigenetic marks associated with particular regions of DNA. This memory is reinforced by repetitive exposure to similar salt stress and can be passed onto offspring, primarily through the maternal line. However, this stress memory is not fixed in future generations as the epigenetic marks can be reset to their original patterns if plants find themselves growing and reproducing under non-stress conditions. In sum, the findings of Wibowo, Becker et al. show that epigenetic marks allow plants to inherit stress memory on a temporary basis while the stress is present, but to gradually lose the memory if the stress does not return. Future studies will focus on finding out if stress memory in crop plants works in the same way. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.13546.002

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