Transgenerational inheritance of induced changes in the epigenetic state of chromatin in plants

Hidetoshi Saze
Genes & Genetic Systems 2012, 87 (3): 145-52
There is growing experimental evidence from both animals and plants that changes in the environment can have profound effects on the epigenetic state of chromatin in nuclei. The epigenetic state of chromatin and the cell-specific transcription profile of genes are mitotically stable and, sometimes, can be transmitted across generations. Plants often show stable transgenerational inheritance of induced alterations of epigenetic states that are associated with morphologically or physiologically distinctive phenotypes. This pattern of inheritance may be due to the fact that germ cells produced by terminal differentiation and to the absence of appreciable epigenetic reprogramming during the life cycle. Recent advances in mass sequencing technology have accelerated the decoding of the epigenomes of various tissues and cell types and provided new insights into the dynamics of epigenetic changes during the plant life cycle and in response to environmental challenges. As plants have a sessile nature, the epigenetic regulation of genes and transposable elements in response to environmental stresses might be crucial for the generation and inheritance of phenotypic variations in plants in natural populations.

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