Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Hidden Layer of Genome Unveils how Plants may Adapt to Environments Throughout the World

Published: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified patterns of epigenomic diversity that not only allow plants to adapt to various environments, but could also benefit crop production and the study of human diseases.

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified patterns of epigenomic diversity that not only allow plants to adapt to various environments, but could also benefit crop production and the study of human diseases.

Published March 6 in Nature, the findings show that in addition to genetic diversity found in plants throughout the world, their epigenomic makeup is as varied as the environments in which they are found. Epigenomics is the study of the pattern of chemical markers that serve as a regulatory layer on top of the DNA sequence. Depending on where they grow, the plants' epigenomic differences may allow them to rapidly adapt to their environments.

Epigenomic modifications alter gene expression without changing the letters of the DNA alphabet (A-T-C-G), providing cells with an additional tool to fine-tune how genes control the cellular machinery. These changes occur not only in plants, but in humans as well.

"We looked at plants collected from around the world and found that their epigenomes are surprisingly different," says senior author Joseph R. Ecker, a professor in Salk's Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and holder of the Salk International Council Chair in Genetics. "This additional diversity may create a way for plants to rapidly adapt to diverse environments without any genetic change in their DNA, which takes a very long time."

By understanding epigenomic alterations in plants, scientists may be able to manipulate them for various purposes, including biofuels and creating crops that can withstand stressful events such as drought. That knowledge of epigenomic changes in crop plants could tell producers what to breed for and could have a huge impact on identifying plants that can survive certain conditions and adapt to environmental stressors, says Ecker, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator.

Using MethylC-Seq, a method for mapping epigenomic changes developed by Ecker, the researchers analyzed methylation patterns from a population of Arabidopsis thaliana, a modest mustard weed that has become to plant biology what laboratory mice are to animal biology. The plants were from a variety of climates in the Northern Hemisphere, from Europe to Asia and Sweden to the Cape Verde Islands. Ecker's team examined the genomes and methylomes of A. thaliana, the makeup of their entire genetic and epigenomic codes, respectively, which is the first step toward understanding the impact of epigenetic changes on the plants' physical characteristics and ability to adapt to their environment.

"We expected variation in methylation patterns among groups of plants from around the globe," says co-lead author Robert J. Schmitz, a postdoctoral researcher in Ecker's lab. "The amount, however, was far greater than we ever anticipated."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Salk scientists discover how plants grow to escape shade
Findings could lead to high-yield crops that gather light more efficiently and make better use of farmland
Friday, April 20, 2012
Scientific News
Ancestors of Land Plants Were Wired to Make the Leap to Shore
When the algal ancestor of modern land plants made the transition from aquatic environments to an inhospitable shore 450 million years ago, it changed the world by dramatically altering climate and setting the stage for the vast array of terrestrial life.
Photosynthesis Gene Could Help Crops Grow in Adverse Conditions
A gene that helps plants to remain healthy during times of stress has been identified by researchers at Oxford University.
Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells Could be "Suffocated" by Anti-diabetic Drug
A new study shows that pancreatic cancer stem cells (PancSCs) are virtually addicted to oxygen-based metabolism, and could be “suffocated” with a drug already used to treat diabetes.
Scientists Learn How to Predict Plant Size
VIB and UGent scientists have developed a new method which allows them to predict the final size of a plant while it is still a seedling.
Scientists Home In On Origin Of Human, Chimpanzee Facial Differences
A study of species-specific regulation of gene expression in chimps and humans has identified regions important in human facial development and variation.
Nanoporous Gold Sponge Makes Pathogen Detector
Sponge-like nanoporous gold could be key to new devices to detect disease-causing agents in humans and plants, according to UC Davis researchers.
Genetic Manipulation for Algal Biofuel Production
Studies of the genes involved in oil synthesis in microalgae allow scientists to use a gene promoter to increase algal production of triacylglycerols, which in turn enhances potential biofuel yields.
Phosphorous Fertilizer
UD researchers identify behaviors of nanoparticle that shows promise as nanofertilizer.
Marijuana Genome Unraveled
A study by Canadian researchers is providing a clearer picture of the evolutionary history and genetic organization of cannabis, a step that could have agricultural, medical and legal implications for this valuable crop.
Grape Waste Could Make Competitive Biofuel
The solid waste left over from wine-making could make a competitive biofuel, University of Adelaide researchers have found.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos