Case studies in plant ecological epigenetics

K.J.F. Verhoeven

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic

Abstract

Case studies in plant ecological epigenetics. Dr. Koen Verhoeven (Netherlands Institute of Ecology) and Dr. Philippine Vergeer (Radboud University, the Netherlands) Netherlands Institute of Ecology & Radboud University, the Netherlands Email: k.verhoeven@nioo.knaw.nl Click to see Dr. Koen Verhoeven (Netherlands Institute of Ecology) and Dr. Philippine Vergeer (Radboud University, the Netherlands)'s homepage. In plants there is strong evidence that some components of the epigenetic code, specifically DNA methylation patterns, can be faithfully transmitted across generations and can affect phenotypes in a heritable way. These are basic requirements to play a role in evolution. To evaluate the relevance of epigenetic mechanisms to plant adaptation it is important to gain better insight in the factors that generate epigenetic variation between individuals. How responsive is the methylation code to environmental and genomic stresses? To what extent are stress-induced methylation changes transmitted to offspring? And to what extent is methylation variation independent of underlying DNA sequence variation? These questions are central to the emerging field of ecological epigenetics. We will present case studies in non-model plant species (dandelion and small scabious) that have started to address these questions using methylation-sensitive AFLP marker analysis to track genome-wide changes in DNA methylation patterns. Common dandelions reproduce asexually via clonal seeds and therefore lack genetic variation among progeny, providing a convenient tool to evaluate stress-induced methylation variation that is not confounded with DNA sequence variation. Results show that experimental stresses readily generate methylation modifications that are subsequently transmitted to offspring, and heritable phenotypic changes are also observed. In the absence of genetic variation, this suggests that epigenetic mechanisms may be an important source for heritable variation in asexual plants. Effects of genomic stresses such as natural polyploidization events (dandelion) and inbreeding (small scabious) are also explored.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event15th Current Themes in Ecology symposium on Revolution in Evolution? Epigenetics in Ecology and Evolution, Amsterdam, The Netherlands -
Duration: 18 Sep 200918 Sep 2009

Conference

Conference15th Current Themes in Ecology symposium on Revolution in Evolution? Epigenetics in Ecology and Evolution, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Period18/09/0918/09/09

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