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Data from: DNA methylation as a possible mechanism affecting ability of natural populations to adapt to changing climate

Cite this dataset

Munzbergova, Zuzana; Latzel, Vit; Surinova, Maria; Hadincova, Vera (2018). Data from: DNA methylation as a possible mechanism affecting ability of natural populations to adapt to changing climate [Dataset]. Dryad.


Environmentally induced epigenetic variation has been recently recognized as a possible mechanism allowing plants to rapidly adapt to novel conditions. Despite increasing evidence on the topic, little is known on how epigenetic variation affects responses of natural populations to changing climate. We studied the effects of experimental demethylation (DNA methylation is an important mediator of heritable control of gene expression) on performance of a clonal grass, Festuca rubra, coming from localities with contrasting temperature and moisture regimes. We compared performance of demethylated and control plants from different populations under two contrasting climatic scenarios and explored whether the response to demethylation depended on genetic relatedness of the plants. Demethylation significantly affected plant performance. Its effects interacted with population of origin and partly with conditions of cultivation. The effects of demethylation also varied between distinct genotypes with more closely related genotypes showing more similar response to demethylation. For belowground biomass, demethylated plants showed signs of adaptation to drought that were not apparent in plants that were naturally methylated. The results suggest that DNA methylation may modify the response of this species to moisture. DNA methylation may thus affect the ability of clonal plants to adapt to novel climatic conditions. Whether this variation in DNA methylation may also occur under natural conditions, however, remains to be explored. Despite the significant interactions between population of origin and demethylation, our data do not provide clear evidence that DNA methylation enabled adaptation to different environments. In fact, we obtained stronger evidence of local adaptation in demethylated than in naturally-methylated plants. As changes in DNA methylation may be quite dynamic, it is thus possible that epigenetic variation can mask plant adaptations to conditions of their origin due to pre-cultivation of the plants under standardized conditions. This possibility should be considered in future experiments exploring plant adaptations.

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