Transgenerational Epigenetics Prepares Plants for Drought

Plants grown in dry soil produce offspring that are hardier in drought conditions, and DNA methylation appears responsible. 

Ben Andrew Henry
Jan 1, 2017

PARENTAL MEMORIES: Spotted lady’s thumb plants whose parents survived drought conditions are more hardy, perhaps due to DNA methylation patterns.WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/JAVIER MARTIN


The paper
J.J. Herman, S.E. Sultan, “DNA methylation mediates genetic variation for adaptive transgenerational plasticity,” Proc R Soc B, doi:10.1098/rspb.2016.0988, 2016.

Conventional Wisdom
The notion that organisms pass down adaptations acquired during their lifetimes to their offspring was overturned long ago by Darwinian evolution. But the concept is getting a second chance, with more nuance. Growing evidence shows that a parent’s environment sometimes does influence offspring, though the underlying process is something of a black box.

Growing up Hard
Sonia Sultan and Jacob Herman of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, peeked into that box with experiments on a small flowering annual, Polygonum persicaria. They grew some plants in dry soil and other plants in normal soil, then raised offspring...

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