Genome-wide transcriptional changes and chromatin modifications associated with plant stress memory

Sani, Emanuela (2013) Genome-wide transcriptional changes and chromatin modifications associated with plant stress memory. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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As sessile organisms, plants had to develop various biochemical and physiological
mechanisms to respond and adapt to abiotic stress conditions such as salt and drought and
thus acquire stress tolerance. A particular interesting mechanism is the so called “priming
effect”: an application of a mild short stress to plants at an early stage of development
appears to enable them to cope better when stressed again at mature stage. However, the
molecular effects of salt priming have not been systematically quantified and as a
consequence the molecular basis of priming remains unknown.
In this study an experimental procedure was established that allowed to test whether salt
priming of young Arabidopsis thaliana plants had an effect on plants exposed to more severe
salt stress at a later stage of development.
To quantify how primed and non-primed plants responded to the second salt stress, global
changes in their transcriptional expression profiles were monitored using Affymetrix
GeneChip ATH1 microarray. Results showed that both primed and non-primed plants
responded to the salt treatment modulating the same set of known stress responsive genes.
However, primed plants differentially regulated a smaller set of genes. Furthermore, the vast
majority of the stress responsive genes showed a weaker response in primed than in nonprimed plants. These results suggested that primed plants channelled the stress response
using only selected genes.
The next question addressed was how primed plants could “remember” the priming
treatment after a period of extensive growth. Several studies had indicated that
environmental stress induces changes in the chromatin structure thereby modifying the
accessibility of the DNA for transcription factors and other regulatory proteins. This suggested
a link between epigenetic modification and exposure of plants to stressful conditions, where
the chromatin status might act as an epigenetic mark that could be maintained during plant
growth and development. To investigate this hypothesis I carried out a comparative analysis
of the epigenetic landscapes of primed and non-primed plants combining Chromatin
Immuno-Precipitation with Illumina sequencing (ChIP-Seq).
Genome-wide profiles of H3K4me2, H3K4me3, H3K9me2 and H3K27me3 were generated for
roots and shoots of plants harvested immediately after the priming treatment. Roots of
primed plants showed indeed numerous differences in their epigenetic profiles compared to
non-primed roots, in particular at the level of H3K27me3. Therefore, I carried out an
additional ChIP-Seq experiment before the application of the second stress to test if the
priming induced changes in H3K27me3 were maintained over this period of extensive growth.
Results showed that several epigenetic differences caused by priming were still maintained.
Finally, to elucidate the relationship between epigenetic modifications and transcriptional
responses the ChIP-Seq profiles were coupled with genome wide transcript profiles obtained
by RNA-seq. Results shown that in the non-steady state there was no clear correlation
between the differences detected at the transcriptional and at the epigenetic level. The
results identified H3K27me3 as a potential mark for salt stress memory and they call for
future studies extending both temporal and spatial resolution of epigenetic and
transcriptional changes after salt priming.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Amtmann, Dr. Anna
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Emanuela Sani
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4110
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2013 07:59
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2016 09:21

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