Plants inherit parents' stress

Environmental stressors induce epigenetic changes that plants pass to their progeny

Melissa Lee Phillips
Aug 6, 2006
Plants can pass on "memories" of stress to their offspring, possibly helping them adapt to their environments, according to a study published online in Nature this week. The researchers found that the progeny of plants exposed to UV radiation or a bacterial protein showed the same genomic instability that their parents did, even though offspring didn't experience either stressor."Stress causing something to be inherited is really quite novel," said Steven Henikoff of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who was not involved in the study.Previous work has shown that external pressures on plants can induce changes such as genomic rearrangement, transposable element activation, and increased homologous recombination. To see if such changes can be passed on to a plant's offspring, researchers led by Jean Molinier, then at Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland, exposed Arabidopsis thaliana plants to one of two...