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Keywords:

  • stress response;
  • epigenetic and genetic regulation;
  • genome stability;
  • chromatin structure;
  • Arabidopsis;
  • tobacco

Abstract

Living organisms have the clearly defined strategies of stress response. These strategies are predefined by a genetic make-up of the organism and depend on a complex regulatory network of molecular interactions. Although in most cases, the plant response to stress based on the mechanisms of tolerance, resistance, and avoidance has clearly defined metabolic pathways, the ability to acclimate/adapt after a single generation exposure previously observed in several studies (Boyko A et al. [2007]: Nucleic Acids Res 35:1714–1725; Boyko and Kovalchuk, unpublished data), represents an interesting phenomenon that cannot be explained by Mendelian genetics. The latest findings in the field of epigenetics and the process of a reversible control over gene expression and inheritance lead to believe that organisms, especially plants, may have a flexible short-term strategy of the response to stress. Indeed, the organisms that can modify gene expression reversibly have an advantage in evolutionary terms, since they can avoid unnecessary excessive rearrangements and population diversification. This review covers various epigenetic processes involved in plant stress response. We focus on the mechanisms of DNA methylation and histone modifications responsible for the protection of somatic cells and inheritance of stress memories. Environ. Mol. Mutagen., 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.