Epigenetics of drought-induced trans-generational plasticity; consequences for range limit development

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Effect of laboratory drought treatments on basal rosette size of the upland mustard species Boechera stricta. Offspring of drought treated plants were more drought tolerant, but lower in chemical defenses; effect that may be mediated by drought-induced DNA methylation. (Credit: Alsdurf et al.)
Effect of laboratory drought treatments on basal rosette size of the upland mustard species Boechera stricta. (Credit: Alsdurf et al.)

Offspring phenotypes may be altered by environments that their parents lived in.These environmentally-induced trans-generational effects may be mediated by epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. Little is known about the role of such epigenetic effects in evolution; however, it is expected to facilitate evolution. To expand geographic range, it is thought that most species would have to adapt via evolution by natural selection to stressful environments beyond range boundaries. Contrary to expectations, in a new study published in AoB PLANTS, Alsdurf et al. show that DNA methylation in an upland mustard species may underlie a drought-induced trans-generational tradeoff that may constrain the process of adaptation to stressful environments at lower elevations.

Reference

Jacob Alsdurf, Cynthia Anderson, David H. Siemens, 2015, 'Epigenetics of drought-induced trans-generational plasticity: consequences for range limit development', AoB Plants, vol. 8, p. plv146 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plv146


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