Abstract Detail


Morgan, Britany [1], Donohue, Kathleen [2], Lenaghan, Scott [3], Stewart, C. Neal [1].

Alleviating effects of competition through genetic and epigenetic alteration of phenotypes.

The neighboring community can have large impacts on the phenotypes and fitness of plants. While the mechanisms underlying the plastic response to cues of neighbor presence are not fully understood, due to the dynamic, inducible, and sometimes transmissible nature of these responses, epigenetic and other genetic regulatory mechanisms likely interact to regulate this plasticity. Furthermore, as organisms can respond to both past and present environments, epigenetic regulation of plasticity may occur in both the parent and the offspring generation. In the following sets of experiments, we aimed to quantify the relative importance of parent versus offspring environmental cues of neighbor presence on offspring phenotypes, the role of DNA methylation in regulating neighbor-induced plasticity, and the potential of phenotypic regulation within the current generation to alleviate effects of competition. In the first suite of experiments, using a combination of mutants and chemicals to reduce DNA methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana, we quantified whether DNA methylation influences offspring response to cues of competition within and across generations. In the second experiment, we evaluated whether potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) genetically edited to exhibit characteristic traits of the shade avoidance syndrome demonstrate reduced effects of competition when grown with heterospecific neighbors. In the first suite of experiments, disrupting DNA methylation in the parental generation led to consistent alterations of the parental effect of canopy between DNA methyltransferase mutants and chemical de-methylation. When used in multiple ecotypes, this chemical de-methylation altered response to competition with neighbors that varied by geneticbackground. In the second experiment, potatoes engineered to display phenotypes of shade avoidance demonstrated reduced effects of competition and more stable phenotypes across environments. Together, these experiments demonstrate that disrupting the regulation of phenotypes can sometimes increase competitive advantage in plants and the pre-emptive expression of shade avoidance traits can increase stability in important crop species.

1 - University of Tennessee, Plant Sciences, 112 Plant Biotechnology Building, 2505 E J Chapman Drive, Knoxville, TN, 37996-4561, United States
2 - Duke University, Dept Of Biology, Box 90338, Durham, NC, 27708, United States
3 - University of Tennessee, Food Science, 102 Food Safety and Processing Building, 2600 River Dr., Knoxville, TN, 37996-4591, United States

plant ecology
DNA methylation
Gene editing
Phenotypic plasticity.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: EC07006
Abstract ID:128
Candidate for Awards:None

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