• Epigenetic inheritance, transgenerational transmission of traits not proximally determined by DNA sequence, has been linked to transmission of chromatin modifications and gene regulation, which are known to be sensitive to environmental factors. Mimulus guttatus increases trichome (plant hair) density in response to simulated herbivore damage. Increased density is expressed in progeny even if progeny do not experience damage. To better understand epigenetic inheritance of trichome production, we tested the hypothesis that candidate gene expression states are inherited in response to parental damage. • Using M. guttatus recombinant inbred lines, offspring of leaf-damaged and control plants were raised without damage. Relative expression of candidate trichome development genes was measured in offspring. Line and parental damage effects on trichome density were measured. Associations between gene expression, trichome density, and response to parental damage were determined. • We identified M. guttatus MYB MIXTA-like 8 as a possible negative regulator of trichome development. We found that parental leaf damage induces down-regulation of MYB MIXTA-like 8 in progeny, which is associated with epigenetically inherited increased trichome density. • Our results link epigenetic transmission of an ecologically important trait with differential gene expression states - providing insight into a mechanism underlying environmentally induced 'soft inheritance'.
© 2011 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2011 New Phytologist Trust.