Kerala

CUK study finds plants transfer stress experience to progenies

Researchers in the Central University of Kerala (CUK) have discovered that plants have memory and can transfer a part of their experiences to their first and even second generation progenies.

Researcher Joyous T. Joseph did the study under the guidance of assistant professor Jasmine M. Shah of the Department of Plant Science. The research found that plants exhibited memory of being under bacterial infection and this information was found in the second generation progenies.

Elaborating on the research, published in the international journal Plant Molecular Biology Reporter, Ms. Shah says though plants do not have brain to remember they do know how to write their experiences in the form of a code language.

Dr. Shah and Dr. Joseph infected a model plant Arabidopsis thaliana with Agrobacterium tumefacians, a bacteria that causes crown gall disease.

Agrobacterium is also used as a tool for generating genetically modified (GM) crops and our group is the first to report Agrobacterium-induced memory in plants,” says Dr. Shah.

“There are previous reports of a few other pathogenic bacteria inducing memory in the ‘defence DNA’ of plants. In our research, the parent plant’s experience of being infected by bacteria was seen in the DNA-repairing gene of the first and second generation progenies,” she says.

This memory is called ‘epigenetic memory’, which means the experiences may not cause genetic mutations in the parent plant yet the memory is heritable or transferred to the next generation. Environmental factors such as stress induced by diseases, drought or starvation can leave epigenetic marks on the DNA, which are heritable,” she says.

This observation in plants is comparable to the parental trauma in humans. In 2015, a research team of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital found that holocaust victims were capable of transferring their traumatic experience to their children’s DNA.

In plants, such epigenetic memory can make the plants more immune or well-prepared to face a similar stress, and understanding the code language will certainly aid in enhancing the ergonomic quality of plants, she says.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 1:03:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/cuk-study-finds-plants-transfer-stress-experience-to-progenies/article34345843.ece

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