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Helmholtz Munich | Martin Groth

Epigenetics, Metabolism, and Acclimation

Groth Lab

About our Research

We explore how environmental changes affect epigenetic regulation and how epigenetic changes contribute to acclimation and stress memory in Arabidopsis thaliana and crops.

Epigenetic regulation enables complex organisms to stably change characteristics without changes in the DNA sequence, e.g. through modifications of the DNA and histone proteins (the main constituents of chromatin) that are transmitted during cell division. These mechanisms take part in the organization of the chromatin into transcriptionally active and inactive regions inside the nucleus. As a dynamic process, epigenetic regulation integrates environmental signals to adjust the activity of genes during development and in response to environmental changes, including diurnal or seasonal cycles as well as biotic and abiotic stresses. Sustained activation or inactivation of genes through epigenetic integration of environmental factors serves as cellular memory and has broad implications for health and disease.

The aim of our research is to better understand (A) how environmental factors influence epigenetic regulation and (B) how environmental epigenetic changes contribute to cellular memory and acquired resistance. We use the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and crops to address these questions. Our goal is to find new ways to increase the resilience and nutritional value of plants and thereby contribute to public health.

Metabolic changes are hallmarks of environmental responses. Likewise, epigenetic modifications depend on central metabolic intermediates. In our group, we focus on the interaction of metabolism and epigenetic regulation to discover new mechanisms involved in metabolic homeostasis, DNA methylation, and histone modification.

Folates play a central biological role in providing one-carbon (C1) units for the biosynthesis of nucleotides, amino acids, pantothenate, and other important metabolites. As human and animal bodies cannot produce folates from scratch and dietary folate uptake from plant sources is often insufficient, folate deficiency constitutes a global public health problem. Increasing the natural folate content of food crops as a measure against folate deficiency (folate biofortification) requires ongoing research, as our picture of the C1 metabolic network remains incomplete. For example, the supply of C1 for the production and turnover of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) – the universal methyl donor for cellular methylation reactions, including DNA and histone methylation – has important implications in epigenetics, which are just starting to emerge. To this end, we are using genetic and multi-omics approaches in Arabidopsis to define the regulation and dynamics of folate metabolism and C1 supply for chromatin methylation in the context of environmental epigenetic changes.

Relevant publications

Plants respond to repeated environmental threats, such as heat or pathogens, by mounting an enhanced stress response through faster and/or stronger activation of defense genes – a phenomenon known as priming. The inducible nature of the priming response reduces developmental trade-offs for the plant when compared to constitutive stress responses. Among other physiological responses, such as the production of signaling and defense compounds, priming stimulation also involves changes at the chromatin level, including sustained histone modification patterns. Moreover, persistent threats can lead to changes in DNA methylation associated with long-term memory and enhanced resistance in the offspring.

We are using genomics, image-based phenotyping, and bioinformatic approaches to systematically characterize chromatin changes and plant responses to defined priming stimulation and stress treatments in experimental settings. Our goal is to gain further knowledge about the epigenetic basis of stress memory and develop sustainable priming-based strategies for plant protection.

Read more about our collaborative effort to improve plant protection in tomato production by priming of juvenile plants here.

 

Folates play a central biological role in providing one-carbon (C1) units for the biosynthesis of nucleotides, amino acids, pantothenate, and other important metabolites. As human and animal bodies cannot produce folates from scratch and dietary folate uptake from plant sources is often insufficient, folate deficiency constitutes a global public health problem. Increasing the natural folate content of food crops as a measure against folate deficiency (folate biofortification) requires ongoing research, as our picture of the C1 metabolic network remains incomplete. For example, the supply of C1 for the production and turnover of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) – the universal methyl donor for cellular methylation reactions, including DNA and histone methylation – has important implications in epigenetics, which are just starting to emerge. To this end, we are using genetic and multi-omics approaches in Arabidopsis to define the regulation and dynamics of folate metabolism and C1 supply for chromatin methylation in the context of environmental epigenetic changes.

Relevant publications

Plants respond to repeated environmental threats, such as heat or pathogens, by mounting an enhanced stress response through faster and/or stronger activation of defense genes – a phenomenon known as priming. The inducible nature of the priming response reduces developmental trade-offs for the plant when compared to constitutive stress responses. Among other physiological responses, such as the production of signaling and defense compounds, priming stimulation also involves changes at the chromatin level, including sustained histone modification patterns. Moreover, persistent threats can lead to changes in DNA methylation associated with long-term memory and enhanced resistance in the offspring.

We are using genomics, image-based phenotyping, and bioinformatic approaches to systematically characterize chromatin changes and plant responses to defined priming stimulation and stress treatments in experimental settings. Our goal is to gain further knowledge about the epigenetic basis of stress memory and develop sustainable priming-based strategies for plant protection.

Read more about our collaborative effort to improve plant protection in tomato production by priming of juvenile plants here.

 

The Groth Lab

Dr. Martin Groth

Group Leader

Recent Publications

Read more

2012 Scientific Article in Nature

Mayer, K.F.X. ; Waugh, R. ; Langridge, P. ; Close, T.J. ; Wise, R.P. ; Graner, A. ; Matsumoto, T. ; Sato, K. ; Schulman, A. ; Muehlbauer, G.J. ; Stein, N. ; Ariyadasa, R. ; Schulte, D. ; Poursarebani, N. ; Zhou, R.N. ; Steuernagel, B. ; Mascher, M. ; Scholz, U. ; Shi, B.J. ; Madishetty, K. ; Svensson, J.T. ; Bhat, P. ; Moscou, M. ; Resnik, J. ; Hedley, P. ; Liu, H. ; Morris, J. ; Frenkel, Z. ; Korol, A. ; Bergès, H. ; Taudien, S. ; Groth, M. ; Felder, M. ; Platzer, M. ; Brown, J.W.S. ; Fincher, G.B. ; Sampath, D. ; Swarbreck, D. ; Scalabrin, S. ; Zuccolo, A. ; Vendramin, V. ; Morgante, M.

A physical, genetic and functional sequence assembly of the barley genome.

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Thomas Gerling

Administrative Assistant

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Institute Office

Petra Hammerl

Institute Assistant

Building 90, Room 105