A global research team led by the University of Sheffield in the United
Kingdom with support from La Trobe University in Australia has identified
for the first time the specific locations (loci) within a plant's
chromosomes that confer disease resistance to their offspring through DNA
methylation in response to pathogen attack.
The researchers identified four DNA loci that control disease resistance
against the plant pathogen downy mildew. La Trobe University research fellow
Dr. Ritushree Jain said that plants which are repetitively attacked by
pathogens develop a 'memory' (known as priming in plants) of the encounter,
enabling them to fight efficiently in future attacks. This transfer of
memory to their next generation via seeds is done through DNA methylation,
according to Dr. Jain. He added that the process is an epigenetic
phenomenon, and there are no changes in the DNA sequence.