The plant response to high CO2 levels is heritable and orchestrated by DNA methylation

Kaushik Panda, Boominathan Mohanasundaram, Jorge Gutierrez, Lauren McLain, S. Elizabeth Castillo, Hudanyun Sheng, Anna Casto, Gustavo Gratacós, Ayan Chakrabarti, Noah Fahlgren, Sona Pandey, Malia A. Gehan, R. Keith Slotkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Plant responses to abiotic environmental challenges are known to have lasting effects on the plant beyond the initial stress exposure. Some of these lasting effects are transgenerational, affecting the next generation. The plant response to elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels has been well studied. However, these investigations are typically limited to plants grown for a single generation in a high CO2 environment while transgenerational studies are rare. We aimed to determine transgenerational growth responses in plants after exposure to high CO2 by investigating the direct progeny when returned to baseline CO2 levels. We found that both the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana and seedless nonvascular plant Physcomitrium patens continue to display accelerated growth rates in the progeny of plants exposed to high CO2. We used the model species Arabidopsis to dissect the molecular mechanism and found that DNA methylation pathways are necessary for heritability of this growth response. More specifically, the pathway of RNA-directed DNA methylation is required to initiate methylation and the proteins CMT2 and CMT3 are needed for the transgenerational propagation of this DNA methylation to the progeny plants. Together, these two DNA methylation pathways establish and then maintain a cellular memory to high CO2 exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2427-2439
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Arabidopsis
  • DNA methylation
  • elevated CO
  • epigenetics
  • mechanism
  • moss
  • phenotyping
  • transgenerational


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