Within- and trans-generational plasticity: seed germination responses to light quantity and quality.

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Plants respond not only to the environment in which they find themselves, but also to that of their parents. The combination of within- and trans-generational phenotypic plasticity regulates plant development. Plants use light as source of energy and also as a cue of competitive conditions, since the quality of light (ratio of red to far-red light, R:FR) indicates the presence of neighbouring plants. Light regulates many aspects of plant development, including seed germination. To understand how seeds integrate environmental cues experienced at different times, we quantified germination responses to changes in light quantity (irradiance) and quality (R:FR) experienced during seed maturation and seed imbibition in Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes that differ in their innate dormancy levels and after treatments that break or reinduce dormancy. In two of the genotypes tested, reduced irradiance as well as reduced R:FR during seed maturation induced higher germination; thus, the responses to light quantity and R:FR reinforced each other. In contrast, in a third genotype, reduced irradiance during seed maturation induced progeny germination, but response to reduced R:FR was in the opposite direction, leading to a very weak or no overall effect of a simulated canopy experienced by the mother plant. During seed imbibition, reduced irradiance and reduced R:FR caused lower germination in all genotypes. Therefore, responses to light experienced at different times (maturation vs. imbibition) can have opposite effects. In summary, seeds responded both to light resources (irradiance) and to cues of competition (R:FR), and trans-generational plasticity to light frequently opposed and was stronger than within-generation plasticity.





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Vayda, Katherine, Kathleen Donohue and Gabriela Alejandra Auge (2018). Within- and trans-generational plasticity: seed germination responses to light quantity and quality. AoB PLANTS, 10(3). 10.1093/aobpla/ply023 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17082.

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Kathleen Donohue

Professor of Biology

We investigate the genetic basis of adaptation, including the evolution of phenotypic plasticity and maternal effects, the adaptive value of epigenetic modifications, niche construction, dispersal, and mechanisms of multilevel natural selection.

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