Transgenerational inheritance and resetting of stress-induced loss of epigenetic gene silencing in Arabidopsis

Mol Plant. 2010 May;3(3):594-602. doi: 10.1093/mp/ssq014. Epub 2010 Apr 21.


Plants, as sessile organisms, need to sense and adapt to heterogeneous environments and have developed sophisticated responses by changing their cellular physiology, gene regulation, and genome stability. Recent work demonstrated heritable stress effects on the control of genome stability in plants--a phenomenon that was suggested to be of epigenetic nature. Here, we show that temperature and UV-B stress cause immediate and heritable changes in the epigenetic control of a silent reporter gene in Arabidopsis. This stress-mediated release of gene silencing correlated with pronounced alterations in histone occupancy and in histone H3 acetylation but did not involve adjustments in DNA methylation. We observed transmission of stress effects on reporter gene silencing to non-stressed progeny, but this effect was restricted to areas consisting of a small number of cells and limited to a few non-stressed progeny generations. Furthermore, stress-induced release of gene silencing was antagonized and reset during seed aging. The transient nature of this phenomenon highlights the ability of plants to restrict stress-induced relaxation of epigenetic control mechanisms, which likely contributes to safeguarding genome integrity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation / physiology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Gene Silencing / physiology
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Chromatin
  • Histones