My name is Stability… Epi-stability

This summer, I am working with my lab on an ongoing effort to answer the broad questions of how stable are transgenerational environmental effects and how do different genotypes affect this stability? We are studying the environmental effect of temperature on the development of Arabidopsis thaliana. 

To answer the question of how stable transgenerational environmental effects are (a.k.a does or to what extent does the effect of a plant’s ancestral environment depend on the present environment of the plant), we are monitoring 3 generations grown in two temperatures. To elaborate, the grandparental generation is grown in a warm and cool temperature, and offsprings of each respective environment are then also grown in warm and cool temperature to give 4 scenarios. Finally, for the last generation, we take the 4 different parentals and self-pollinate them to give 8 possible scenarios (CCC, CCW, CWC, CWW, WCC, WCW, WWC, WWW). Using data collected of key developmental marks such as seed germination, seedling traits, time and size of bolt, flowering time etc., we will be able to analyze if the effects of ancestral environments depends on the present environment of the plant. We answer the next question of the effects of genotype on transgenerational environmental effects by growing Arabidopsis Thaliana of various genotypes in strictly all warm or all cool climates for 3 generations (CCC or WWW).

In both experiments we are testing plants that require vernalization (a cold period before they flower) versus those that do not require vernalization.

This is a project that was started during the school year, so my portion is conducting the last generation for the two different experiments. I do germination assays (counting the number of germinants from each of the scenarios) and record specific phenotypes. Because plants take a while to grow, there is time where I’m not directly working on my portion of the project. During this time, I am learning about data analysis techniques for when the data becomes available. My mentor has recommended that I start to learn a bit of computer programming, so that we can analyze all aspects of the data. This portion is very statistic heavy, but I am very excited to explore biology through a quantitative lense.

(The name of the project is Epistability, because there are factors beyond genetics (environment) that affect these plants. )

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