29 June 2015

Meike Burow receives grant to study plant epigenetics


Although it is well-known that plants may pass on defence responses triggered by the environment to their offspring, virtually nothing is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms. A new exciting project will look into these heritable traits which are not determined by changes in the DNA sequence. The Danish Council for Independent Research supports the project with 2.5 mill DKK.

Meike Burow (far right) discusses plant epigenetics with two fellow DynaMo members.

Associate Professor Meike Burow from DynaMo Center, PLEN, University of Copenhagen, will head the new project. She has a strong track record in plant biochemistry, chemistry and transcriptional regulation and is looking forward to embarking on the project.

Plant defence mechanisms

Meike Burow explains:

“Plants are continuously confronted by challenging and fluctuating environments and respond with a wide range of inducible chemical defences. After the initial attack, by say an insect or a microbe, a plant will have improved resistance towards that particular danger."

"However, and highly remarkable, the induced resistance may also be found in the offspring of that plant and thereby the next plant generation will already be well-prepared  for its stressful environment without the need of any genetic mutations,” Meike Burow adds.

Transgenerational memory

In the upcoming project Meike Burow and her team strive to gain mechanistic insight into how plants cope with environmental stress across generations. The study of cellular and physiological trait variations that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence is known as epigenetics. Meike Burow’s new project is centered on such epigenetic modifications triggered by environmental factors.

The potential of the project is vast. Meike Burow explains:

“The knowledge we expect to gain from this project has the potential to aid future biotechnological approaches and breeding programs aimed at creating crop plants that can withstand stressful conditions including attacks by insects and microbes. Moreover, it may have implications for structuring future research on human diseases and development.”  


Danish Council for Independent Research | Natural Sciences (FNU)

Title of project:

Transgenerational inheritance of plant resistance

Awarded Amount:

2,591,256 DKK