Effects of parental light environment on growth and morphological responses of clonal offspring.
Environments experienced by parent ramets of clonal plants can potentially influence fitness of clonal offspring ramets. Such clonal parental effects may result from heritable epigenetic changes, such as DNA methylation, which can be removed by application of DNA de-methylation agents such as 5-azacytidine. To test whether parental shading effects occur via clonal generation and whether DNA methylation plays a role in such effects, parent plants of the clonal herb Alternanthera philoxeroides were first subjected to two levels of light intensity (high versus low) crossed with two levels of DNA de-methylation (no or with de-methylation by application of 5-azacytidine), and then clonal offspring taken from each of these four types of parent plant were subjected to the same two light levels. Parental shading effects transmitted via clonal generation decreased growth and modified morphology of clonal offspring. Offspring responses were also influenced by DNA methylation level of parent plants. For clonal offspring growing under low light, parental shading effects on growth and morphology were always negative, irrespective of the parental de-methylation treatment. For clonal offspring growing under high light, parental shading effects on offspring growth and morphology were negative when the parents were not treated with 5-azacytidine, but neutral when they were treated with 5-azacytidine. Overall, parental shading effects on clonal offspring performance of A. philoxeroides were found, and DNA methylation is likely to be involved in such effects. However, parental shading effects contributed little to the tolerance of clonal offspring to shading.