Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Discovering the Seeds of Defense: Stress Causes the Widespread Epigenetic Changes Aiding In Disease Resistance

For a very long time, the scientists were convinced that methylation, the essential part of every living organism development process, was just a static modification of DNA, which was not possible to be altered by environmental conditions.  However, according to new findings provided by the researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the DNA of organisms experiencing stress undergo changes in the DNA methylation pattern which alters the way genes are regulated.

Professor Joseph Ecker working at Salk’s Genomic Analysis Laboratory believes that the epigenome may not be a static set of instructions but can also take part in “rewriting” those instructions according to the received experience. Eventually, it all boils down to the theory that life experiences leave an imprint on our DNA.
Using the genome-wide sequencing technologies, the researchers have tracked numerous methylation changes in the plant’s response to bacterial infections and went on with a number of analyses focused on analyzing the way such changes are able to alter gene expression. The Salk findings are sure to influence the agriculture, including plants DNA methylation process engineering aimed at generating pathogen-resistant crops and minimizing the pesticide exposure. These technologies bring about huge interest among farmers , as more than 30 per cent of the yearly crops are lost due to pathogens and cost of $500 billion.

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