Plants transmit to the descendants the memories of cold winters

Note the question – can we trust the reports in the media about the fact that plants actually have a memory? Agree, reading this involuntarily recall such masterpieces of journalism as “in the Rostov region the trees eat people” or “plants are already reading your mind” or plants that kill people/zombies/cows… the list goes on. In fact, scientists really think that plants have memory, which is definitely different from ours. As the authors of a new study in plants the phenomenon of epigenetic memory – this means that the children inherit the memory from parents with DNA of stem cells. Speaking very simple words, it is inherited memory, which helps the plants not to forget the winter cold and bloom in the spring and not at other times of the year. Moreover, when plants produce seeds, they “erase” that information from epigenetic memory, so as not to bloom before their time.

Plants have memories

This may seem a bit odd, but the epigenetic memory of the plants exactly the same goal as that of human memory is to give the body a chance to adapt to the changes. The environment is one of the main engines of evolution. Two years ago, researchers from Birmingham and Nottingham have deciphered the mechanism by which plants “forget” and “remember” changes in the environment.

In work published in the Journal Nature Communications, the researchers write that the memory function of plants allows them to coordinate their development in response to stress or the changing of the seasons. This plants helps a group of proteins called PRC2. In the cold, these proteins are joined into a single protein complex and transferred the plant into the flowering mode.

PRC2 proteins are a group of proteins able to control the movement of parts of the chromosomes on the DNA. That's why they are all located at the right distance from each other.

Later, another study, conducted in collaboration with scientists from Oxford University and the University of Utrecht, has revealed a new understanding of the function of the PRC2 – “sensing the environment”. This became possible after the discovery of another protein VRN2. As it turned out, under favorable conditions (lots of sun, oxygen, etc.) VRN2 is unstable and quickly falls apart. But when the snow falls or the plant flooded, VRN2 accumulates in the body and prevents flowering. This kind of “switch” PRC2. The authors note that the animals are present similar proteins.

Now, an international team of experts confirmed the existence of epigenetic memory in plants. As it turned out, memories of plants are produced through modification of specialized proteins – histones. Histones, among other things, responsible for the “packaging” of DNA in the cell. One of such modifications is called the histone H3K27me3: if the weather is too cold, the H3K27me3 accumulates in the genes that control flowering. Previous work showed exactly how H3K27me3 is transmitted from cell to cell and helps the plant to remember about the cold time of year and bloom when it becomes warm.

Writes Muy Interesante, in the course of work researchers have discovered a so-called “epigenetic reset” that reminds erasing and reformatting the data on the hard disk. Another interesting discovery was the fact that the seed accumulates a special histone, which can not carry H3K27me3. “It makes a lot of sense from an environmental point of view,” said Dr Borg, the first author of the article, which collected the research and results were recently published in Nature Cell Biology.

Since pollen can be spread long distances by the wind for example, or with the bees, and most of the” memory” that carries H3K27me3, is associated with adaptation to the environment, it is logical that the seeds of “forget” environment of his father and instead remember the environment his mother, as they are likely to multiply and grow near to mother.

Jörg Becker, Professor Gulbenkian Institute of science

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