Crop Biotech Update

Study Shows Plants Forget Unused Memories

March 2, 2016

A team of researchers from the Australian National University Canberra, has found that plants can reset a memory that has not been useful, and in essence, forgetting things that they have stored. Previous studies have shown that plants remember events such as droughts, so that they know how to survive if similar events occur in the future. In the new study, the team reports learning not only more about how such memory processing occurs, but also how plants are able to reset if conditions change such that a memory that has been learned that is no longer useful can be eliminated.

The researchers found that for a plant to create a memory, it has to create a protein that will have an impact on its own DNA, which allows for impacting future generations. It is all part of a process called RNA decay, where DNA strands are transcribed into RNA, before they are translated into proteins. The RNA decay process controls the amount of RNA molecules that are to be tuned into proteins, and any disruption to that process prevents a memory from being formed, suggesting the means by which previous memories may be eliminated. The process is important because holding onto memories uses plant resources.

The team notes that some plants also appear to have short-term memory that is not related to either DNA or RNA, but it still remains to be studied.

For more information, read the paper with details of the research at Science Advances.