Heritable epigenetic modulation of gene expression is a candidate mechanism to explain parental environmental effects on offspring phenotypes, but current evidence for environment-induced epigenetic changes that persist in offspring generations is scarce. In apomictic dandelions, exposure to various stresses was previously shown to heritably alter DNA methylation patterns. In this study we explore whether these induced changes are accompanied by heritable effects on offspring phenotypes. We observed effects of parental jasmonic acid treatment on offspring specific leaf area and on offspring interaction with a generalist herbivore; and of parental nutrient stress on offspring root-shoot biomass ratio, tissue P-content and leaf morphology. Some of the effects appeared to enhance offspring ability to cope with the same stresses that their parents experienced. Effects differed between apomictic genotypes and were not always consistently observed between different experiments, especially in the case of parental nutrient stress. While this context-dependency of the effects remains to be further clarified, the total set of results provides evidence for the existence of transgenerational effects in apomictic dandelions. Zebularine treatment affected the within-generation response to nutrient stress, pointing at a role of DNA methylation in phenotypic plasticity to nutrient environments. This study shows that stress exposure in apomictic dandelions can cause transgenerational phenotypic effects, in addition to previously demonstrated transgenerational DNA methylation effects.
Verhoeven, K. J. F., & Van Gurp, T. P. (2012). Transgenerational effects of stress exposure on offspring phenotypes in apomictic dandelion. PLoS One, 7(6), [e38605]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0038605