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Trends Ecol Evol. 2012 Nov;27(11):618-26. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.07.011. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

Transgenerational defense induction and epigenetic inheritance in plants.

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University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Entomology, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Rapidly accumulating evidence shows that herbivore and pathogen attack of plants can generate particular defense phenotypes across generations. What was once thought to be an oddity of plant defense induction now appears to be a taxonomically widespread phenomenon with strong potential to impact the ecology and evolution of species interactions. DNA methylation, histone modifications, and small RNAs each contribute to transgenerational defense initiation; examples in several species demonstrate that this induction can last for multiple generations. Priming of the offspring generation for more rapid induction following subsequent attack has also been reported. The extent to which transgenerational induction is predictable, detectable in nature, and subject to manipulation will determine the ability of researchers to decipher its role in plant-herbivore and plant-pathogen interactions.

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