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Crop Biotech Update

Epigenetic "Memory" Key to Nature vs Nurture

August 5, 2011

In a study conducted by researchers at the John Innes Centre, it was explained how an organism can make a biological memory of certain conditions such as quality of nutrition and temperature. This memory works like a biological switch and can be inherited by the offspring. Professor Caroline Dean, one of the researchers, said "…in some cases the environment of an individual can actually affect the biology or physiology of their offspring but there is no change to the genome sequence."

This phenomenon is called epigenetic memory, which is used by plants to "remember" the length of the cold winter period to delicately time flowering so that pollination, development, seed dispersal, and germination can take place at the right timing.

Through mathematical modeling and experimental analysis, the researchers discovered a key gene labeled as FLC which could be turned on or off in any one cell and also later in its offspring. They found that the longer time of the cold period, the higher the chances that the FLC is turned off, delaying flowering.

For more details, read the article at http://www.jic.ac.uk/corporate/media-and-public/current-releases/110724deanhowardmemory.html.