Is the Interplay between Epigenetic Markers Related to the Acclimation of Cork Oak Plants to High Temperatures?

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Is the Interplay between Epigenetic Markers Related to the Acclimation of Cork Oak Plants to High Temperatures?

Public Library of Science
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053543
  • Epigenetics
  • Biology
  • Plants
  • Genetics
  • Plant Physiology
  • Plant Science
  • Histone Modification
  • Research Article
  • Trees
  • Plant Ecology
  • Dna Modification
  • Plant Genetics
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Cellular Stress Responses
  • Plant-Environment Interactions


Trees necessarily experience changes in temperature, requiring efficient short-term strategies that become crucial in environmental change adaptability. DNA methylation and histone posttranslational modifications have been shown to play a key role in both epigenetic control and plant functional status under stress by controlling the functional state of chromatin and gene expression. Cork oak (Quercus suber L.) is a key stone of the Mediterranean region, growing at temperatures of 45°C. This species was subjected to a cumulative temperature increase from 25°C to 55°C under laboratory conditions in order to test the hypothesis that epigenetic code is related to heat stress tolerance. Electrolyte leakage increased after 35°C, but all plants survived to 55°C. DNA methylation and acetylated histone H3 (AcH3) levels were monitored by HPCE (high performance capillary electrophoresis), MS-RAPD (methylation-sensitive random-amplified polymorphic DNA) and Protein Gel Blot analysis and the spatial distribution of the modifications was assessed using a confocal microscope. DNA methylation analysed by HPCE revealed an increase at 55°C, while MS-RAPD results pointed to dynamic methylation-demethylation patterns over stress. Protein Gel Blot showed the abundance index of AcH3 decreasing from 25°C to 45°C. The immunohistochemical detection of 5-mC (5-methyl-2′-deoxycytidine) and AcH3 came upon the previous results. These results indicate that epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation and histone H3 acetylation have opposite and particular dynamics that can be crucial for the stepwise establishment of this species into such high stress (55°C), allowing its acclimation and survival. This is the first report that assesses epigenetic regulation in order to investigate heat tolerance in forest trees.

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