Date of Award
Epigenetics provide organisms with the ability to alter gene expression, modifying the way two identical pieces of DNA can be expressed. These mechanisms may activate in response to various environmental conditions, allowing for different environmental conditions to differentially affect the gene expression of a given organism. If this change in gene expression results in different phenotypes we can describe this response as an example of phenotypic plasticity. Epigenetic mechanisms differ from traditional transcriptional regulators in that the modification can, at least in some cases, be passed along to the next generation. In theory this can allow for the transmission of acquired characteristics from one generation to the next. In both field measurements and greenhouse growths we found that Solidago rugosa grows to a higher height to width ratio in the shade than it does in full sun (Greenhouse: F=44.03, df=l,87, p<0.0001) (Field: F=142.68, df=l,116 p<0.0001). Working with Arabidopsis thaliana we found that the increased fitness due to high light levels may be transmittable to future generations. This was not shown to be quite statistically definitive (F=2.89, df=l,88 p=0.0928), and will be a good candidate for future research.
Colicchio, Jack Michael, "Phenotypic Plasticity and Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance in Response to Varying Light Levels" (2011). Dickinson College Honors Theses. Paper 140.