Title

Experimental Alteration of DNA Methylation Affects the Phenotypic Plasticity of Ecologically Relevant Traits in Arabidopsis

Presenter Information

Anthony Marrese

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 137B

Start Date

16-5-2013

End Date

16-5-2013

Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to change its phenotype (expressed characteristics) in response to its environment. For example, plants with the same genotype may respond differently to shading stress due to variation in expression of shade-tolerance genes among individuals. These variations in gene expression may be controlled by DNA methylation, but the effect of DNA methylation on phenotypic plasticity is poorly understood. Understanding how DNA methylation affects plant response to the environment is important because it has far reaching consequences for plant adaptation to new environments and implications for crop improvement. In this study, we examined how DNA methylation affects plant phenotypic plasticity to different shading environments. We treated eight lines of Arabidopsis thaliana plants with a de-methylating agent (5-azacytidine), and then grew treated and untreated (control) individuals under two light conditions: 1) simulated foliar shade (green lighting filters); and 2) neutral shade (white lighting filters). Our preliminary results indicate that demethylated plants do not respond in the predicted manner to shade treatments, and that demethylation affects lines differently. These results suggest that DNA methylation is an important aspect of plant phenotypic plasticity to shade, and that this response is genetically variable. This study is one of the first to demonstrate that DNA methylation affects phenotypic plasticity to ecologically relevant environmental conditions, and lends insight into the genetic control of phenotypic plasticity in natural plant populations.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Jennifer Dechaine

Additional Mentoring Department

Biological Sciences

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Experimental Alteration of DNA Methylation Affects the Phenotypic Plasticity of Ecologically Relevant Traits in Arabidopsis

SURC 137B

Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to change its phenotype (expressed characteristics) in response to its environment. For example, plants with the same genotype may respond differently to shading stress due to variation in expression of shade-tolerance genes among individuals. These variations in gene expression may be controlled by DNA methylation, but the effect of DNA methylation on phenotypic plasticity is poorly understood. Understanding how DNA methylation affects plant response to the environment is important because it has far reaching consequences for plant adaptation to new environments and implications for crop improvement. In this study, we examined how DNA methylation affects plant phenotypic plasticity to different shading environments. We treated eight lines of Arabidopsis thaliana plants with a de-methylating agent (5-azacytidine), and then grew treated and untreated (control) individuals under two light conditions: 1) simulated foliar shade (green lighting filters); and 2) neutral shade (white lighting filters). Our preliminary results indicate that demethylated plants do not respond in the predicted manner to shade treatments, and that demethylation affects lines differently. These results suggest that DNA methylation is an important aspect of plant phenotypic plasticity to shade, and that this response is genetically variable. This study is one of the first to demonstrate that DNA methylation affects phenotypic plasticity to ecologically relevant environmental conditions, and lends insight into the genetic control of phenotypic plasticity in natural plant populations.