An Agroscope study shows: heat and other stress situations influence the DNA of woodland strawberry. The resulting changes can help forearm strawberries against subsequent stress situations – they ‘remember’.
In the EU project ‘EpiDiverse’, Agroscope studies whether and how stress influences the DNA of woodland strawberry. For this, researchers exposed the strawberry plants to various stress situations and studied their epigenetics. Epigenetics describes changes occurring at the DNA level thereby influencing gene activity yet without modifications in the actual DNA sequence itself. The study shows that all of the tested stressors, but heat stress in particular, led to epigenetic changes in the DNA of woodland strawberry.
The study also shows that the observed changes persist for a certain time. They may help the plant cope with stress, so that it is better able to deal with the stressor the next time it is encountered. The plants can ‘remember’, so to speak. This also means that, in addition to natural mutation, plants have a further, dynamic way of adapting to changed environmental conditions.