Rice is one of the most important staple crops in the world. With our growing world population,
food security becomes even more important. Due to environmental concerns, rice cultivation is
shifted from flooded fields to well-drained soils, which poses problems with soil-bound nematodes
(and other diseases) that majorly jeopardize rice yield. Plants have many mechanisms to defend
themselves against these nematodes and other parasites. They even have a ‘memory’ that allows
them to react more quickly and effectively to a reoccurring attack. Interestingly, it has recently
been discovered that in some cases plants can transfer their stress-memory to their progeny,
which then also exhibits a better stress tolerance or resistance. Subjecting a plant to stress to
‘arm’ it against future stress is termed ‘priming’. In this proposal, priming of plants by applying stress to their parents will be indicated as ‘transgenerational priming’.
Currently, much remains unknown about the mechanisms behind transgenerational priming.
However, it has been shown that it is not passed on in a genetic way, but through epigenetics: a
regulatory layer above the genome that determines which parts of the information encoded in our
DNA will be used to build our cells. Many of the epigenetic mechanisms rely on a certain type of
RNA-molecules, termed non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). This project aims at identifying a subset of
these ncRNAs and their function in nematode-induced transgenerational priming in rice.