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Winter-dormant shoot apical meristem in poplar trees shows environmental epigenetic memory

Publication at Faculty of Science |


Trees have a long lifespan and must continually adapt to environmental pressures, notably in the context of climate change. Epigenetic mechanisms are doubtless involved in phenotypic plasticity and in stress memory; however, little evidence of the role of epigenetic processes is available for trees growing in fields.

Here, we analyzed the possible involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in the winter-dormant shoot apical meristem of Populus x euramericana clones in memory of the growing conditions faced during the vegetative period. We aimed to estimate the range of genetic and environmentally induced variations in global DNA methylation and to evaluate their correlation with changes in biomass production, identify differentially methylated regions (DMRs), and characterize common DMRs between experiments.

We showed that the variations in global DNA methylation between conditions were genotype dependent and correlated with biomass production capacity. Microarray chip analysis allowed detection of DMRs 6 months after the stressful summer period.

The 161 DMRs identified as common to three independent experiments most notably targeted abiotic stress and developmental response genes. Results are consistent with a winter-dormant shoot apical meristem epigenetic memory of stressful environmental conditions that occurred during the preceding summer period.

This memory may facilitate tree acclimation.