Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Crazy Things Plants (and Animals?!) Do: Genetics Gone HAYWIRE

So I heard a story, Plant's Genetic Repairs Astound Scientists, on All Things Considered today. I thought it sounded like a pretty important and pretty interesting story.
All Things Considered, March 23, 2005 · In a surprising finding that challenges the conventional rules of inheritance, scientists have shown that the cress plant arabidopsis can overwrite the genetic code it inherits from its parents and revert to that of its grandparents or even great grandparents. Scientists say they now hope to learn whether this is just an aberration, or something that could be happening in other plants and even animals. NPR's Joe Palca reports.

However, I hardly found any news on it! I did find these articles:
For some reason the second link didn't require me to register at first, but it now does. However, I found the first link which provides that story without registration.

From that first link:
Mendelian inheritance, the central tenet of genetics, is under attack from a few scrawny weeds that have not read the textbooks. The weeds are somehow inheriting DNA sequences from their grandparents that neither of their parents possessed - which is supposed to be impossible.

An image on their site has a good summary of the findings (click for larger):

Genetic mystery (click for larger)

That seems like major news! I guess Terry Shiavo and Michael Jackson are far more important though. My mistake.
 

1 comment:

Theo said...

It turns out that over this last ten years, a number of these odd cases have been popping up.

And it actually makes a lot of FUNCTIONAL sense for plants to do this.

Picture "grandparent" plants during a normal season. They have offspring, some of them are more drought resistant than others. A drought comes on and kills off all but the drought resistant variety. This drought only affects one or possibly two generations (this "genetic memory" appears to go back as far as 4 generations) and then have offspring. Those offspring, which you would imagine would be drought resistant, do not face a drought anymore. Normally, this would kill them all off (they'd drown). However, a number of them have shifted to their "grandparents" genes, and the line survives.

Fascinating. Amazing stuff. Neat.