RP09: Life history effects on epigenetic inheritance

  • Supervisor(s): Koen Verhoeven & Wim van der Putten
  • Host Institution: Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • Duration: 48 months
  • Fixed start date: 1 April 2018
  • Planned secondment(s): Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (GE); Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique, Angers (FR); Wissenschaft im Dialog, Berlin (GE)

DNA methylation variants can arise spontaneously, they can be under genetic control or they can be induced by environments. In plants, some DNA methylation variants are stable across many generations whereas other variants are very transient. A good understanding of the transgenerational dynamics of DNA methylation variants is essential to understand their impact on heritable traits and their effect on adaptation. Current insight in the transgenerational dynamics of DNA methylation is limited to very few plant species, but it is predicted that these dynamics are not constant between plant species. For instance, plant reproduction mode can have a large effect because asexual reproduction bypasses some of the epigenetic resetting mechanisms that normally occur during sexual reproduction. Adaptive differences in transgenerational stability may also differ between species with different life spans or from habitats of different environmental predictability.

In this project, we aim to investigate differences in DNA methylation dynamics between species with different life history traits. Specifically, we will characterize environmental effects and transgenerational stability of DNA methylation and compare these between sexually and asexually reproducing wild Fragaria (strawberry) species, and between different Brassicaceae species that differ in life history characteristics (for instance annual versus perennial) and habitat characteristics. DNA methylation screening tools will include reduced representation bisulfite sequencing and the project will interact closely with bioinformatics groups in the EpiDiverse network.

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