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Forest trees retain memories of their origin

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 17:05

Toronto: Trees may not be all that different from humans when it comes to certain memories about their origins. And they could, therefore, respond to stress situations differently.

A study, led by Malcolm Campbell, biologist at the University of Toronto, looked at the theory that trees and other plants, even when they were genetically identical, responded to stress differently, depending on the nursery that the plants were obtained from.

Campbell says the research findings not only provide a strong affirmation of this effect but also reveal insight on a molecular level.

"Our results show that there is a form of molecular `memory` in trees where a tree`s previous personal experience influences how it responds to the environment."

In the new study, Campbell`s graduate student Sherosha Raj used genetically identical poplar trees that had been grown in two different regions of Canada, according to a Toronto statement.

These stem cuttings were then used to regrow the trees under identical climate-controlled conditions in Toronto. Raj subjected half of the trees to drought conditions while the remaining trees were well watered.

Remarkably, genetically identical specimens of two poplar varieties responded differently to the drought treatment depending on their place of origin.

Even though the specimens were all genetically identical, trees that had been obtained from Alberta used a different set of genes to respond to drought than the ones that had been obtained from Saskatchewan.

These findings are relevant in highlighting the importance of the nursery source for trees and other plants, which can determine how the plant will grow and resist stress in a forest or the garden.


First Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 17:05

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