Testing epigenomic approaches to characterise environmental adaptation in crops and related wild species
Carrots are a nutritionally and economically important crop, with a market value of £290 million in 2014. The UK Vegetable Genebank holds a globally significant collection of carrot seed, with over 1,500 samples, including old varieties and seeds from wild relatives of carrot. Characterising and conserving the diversity contained within our collections ensures their utility for agricultural improvement and food security.
Studies of the variation within species usually focus on genetic diversity. However, another source of variation among individuals is epigenetic variation. Epigenetic variation describes the pattern of modifications to the DNA structure (such as the addition of methyl groups) that can alter the way DNA is processed, stimulating or suppressing the activity of particular genes.
Epigenetic variation is important because it may help plants adapt to different environments and stresses. However, there is still know very little about the extent of epigenetic diversity in most species. In this project Dr Sarah Trinder at the School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick has MLS funding to study one type of epigenetic modification, DNA methylation, in carrots. She and her team will compare samples collected in different environments to understand how patterns of DNA methylation vary in carrots.