Forest trees are long-lived organisms subject to repeated environmental constraints throughout their long lifetimes. They have developed various mechanisms enabling them to cope with fluctuating environmental conditions during their life span, and to survive to current climate change. Epigenetics has recently emerged as a powerful set of mechanisms regulating various developmental processes, plant growth and responses to environmental variations. Such epigenetic mechanisms, which may remain stable along tree life or across generations, constitute a source of rapid phenotypic variations potentially improving adaptation of the plants in situations in which naturally occurring mutations are very rare. In this review, we summarize recent advances in forest tree epigenomics. We first draw the particularities of trees and the available (epi) genomics resources and strategies. Then, we discuss the potential contributions of epigenetics to cope with global climate change and regulate various developmental processes, such as developmental transitions during the annual cycle, phenotypic plasticity in response to environmental variations and stress memory, as well as local adaptation. Finally, we propose some challenges for forest management and highlighted the need to take epigenetics into account in forest tree breeding strategies.
Elsevier, Advances in Botanical Research, Volume 88, 2018