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sRNAs: Initiators of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in Arabidopsis thaliana

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Genetic mechanisms alone are unable to explain how some traits are propagated from one generation to the next. Epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation and post-translational modification(s) of histone tails are widely accepted as playing a critical role in regulating gene expression. In general, these modifications are cleared and re-established each generation. However, at some genomic loci this erasure is incomplete and the epigenetic state of the parent is transmitted to the progeny; a phenomenon referred to as transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. In flowering plants, small non-coding RNAs (21-24 nucleotide in length) are required for initiation of heritable epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation. I am interested in understanding how sRNA populations change in response to different environmental conditions and whether these changes can alter the epigenetic state of target loci and lead to heritable phenotypic variation. In addition, I am exploiting additional sRNA-mediated mechanisms (such as the anti-viral defence mechanism) to aid our understanding of how and when transgenerational epigenetic inheritance can be established and maintained in plants.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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