There is considerable excitement about the potential for epigenetic information to contribute to heritable variation in many species. Our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance is rapidly growing, and it is now possible to profile the epigenome at high resolution. Epigenetic information plays a role in developmental gene regulation, response to the environment, and in natural variation of gene expression levels. Because of these central roles, there is the potential for epigenetics to play a role in crop improvement strategies including the selection for favorable epigenetic states, creation of novel epialleles, and regulation of transgene expression. In this review we consider the potential, and the limitations, of epigenetic variation in crop improvement.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
I am grateful to Steve Eichten, Amanda Waters, Evan Starr, Peter Tiffin, and Robert Stupar for their comments and discussions that helped to shape this review. N.S. is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (IOS-0922095 and MCB-1121952) and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) of the US Department of Agriculture (2010-04122).
- DNA methylation
- Histone modification