Pre-conditioning the epigenetic response to high vapor pressure deficit increases the drought tolerance of Arabidopsis thaliana

Penny J. Tricker, Carlos M.Rodríguez López, P. Hadley, C. Wagstaff, Mike J. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Epigenetic modification of the genome via cytosine methylation is a dynamic process that responds to changes in the growing environment. this modification can also be heritable. the combination of both properties means that there is the potential for the life experiences of the parental generation to modify the methylation profiles of their ofspring and so potentially to "pre-condition" them to better accommodate abiotic conditions encountered by their parents. We recently identified high vapor pressure deficit (vpd)-induced Dna methylation at 2 gene loci in the stomatal development pathway and an associated reduction in leaf stomatal frequency.1 here, we test whether this epigenetic modification preconditioned parents and their ofspring to the more severe water stress of periodic drought. We found that 3 generations of high vpd-grown plants were better able to withstand periodic drought stress over 2 generations. this resistance was not directly associated with de novo methylation of the target stomata genes, but was associated with the cmt3 mutant's inability to maintain asymmetric sequence context methylation. if our finding applies widely, it could have significant implications for evolutionary biology and breeding for stressful environments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant Signaling and Behavior
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Cocoa Research (UK) Ltd. and the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality (Ministerie van LNV) for the funding that made this work possible and M Richardson for his excellent technical support of the controlled environment experiments.


  • Abiotic stress
  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Drought
  • Methylation
  • Transgenerational epigenetic heritability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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