Plant environmental memory: implications, mechanisms and opportunities for plant scientists and beyond
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAoB Plants. 2023, 15 (4), . 10.1093/aobpla/plad032
Plants are extremely plastic organisms. They continuously receive and integrate environmental information and adjust their growth and development to favour fitness and survival. When this integration of information affects subsequent life stages or the development of subsequent generations, it can be considered an environmental memory. Thus, plant memory is a relevant mechanism by which plants respond adaptively to different environments. If the cost of maintaining the response is offset by its benefits, it may influence evolutionary trajectories. As such, plant memory has a sophisticated underlying molecular mechanism with multiple components and layers. Nonetheless, when mathematical modelling is combined with knowledge of ecological, physiological, and developmental effects as well as molecular mechanisms as a tool for understanding plant memory, the combined potential becomes unfathomable for the management of plant communities in natural and agricultural ecosystems. In this review, we summarize recent advances in the understanding of plant memory, discuss the ecological requirements for its evolution, outline the multilayered molecular network and mechanisms required for accurate and fail-proof plant responses to variable environments, point out the direct involvement of the plant metabolism and discuss the tremendous potential of various types of models to further our understanding of the plant’s environmental memory. Throughout, we emphasize the use of plant memory as a tool to unlock the secrets of the natural world.