Our research focuses on memory processes in plants which are induced by developmental or environmental cues. Transitions in the plant lifecycle such as germination, the transition from embryonic to vegetative growth, and flowering, the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth, are usually very stable so that embryonic traits or vegetative traits, respectively, are suppressed after a phase transition. Similarly, recurring stress such as pathogen attack or adverse temperature may create a memory so that plants which have been exposed to a stress are more resistant to a subsequent stressful event, a phenomenon termed “priming”. As the memory is usually reset every generation, developmental or stress memory cannot rely on changes of DNA sequence and therefore rely on epigenetic mechanisms.
We aim to identify the molecular mechanisms and factors which control developmental memory and reveal the cell types in which the memory occurs. We use genetic, molecular and biochemical techniques combined with advanced imaging and (epi)genomics for our studies. Knowledge of the mechanisms underlying memory processes in plants may contribute to control and stabilize phase transitions for higher fruit and seed yield and enhance the resistance of plants to recurring stress. Our team is a member of the Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences, one of the research focus areas of the FU-Berlin.