A stochastic model of chromatin modification: Cell population coding of winter memory in plants

Akiko Satake, Yoh Iwasa

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Biological memory, a sustained cellular response to a transient stimulus, has been found in many natural systems. The best example in plants is the winter memory by which plants can flower in favorable conditions in spring. For this winter memory, epigenetic regulation of . FLOWERING LOCUS C (. FLC), which acts as a floral repressor, plays a key role. Exposure to prolonged periods of cold results in the gradual suppression of . FLC, which allows plants to measure the length of cold and to flower only after a sufficiently long winter. Although many genes involved in histone modifications have been isolated, molecular mechanisms of winter memory are not well understood. Here, we develop a model for chromatin modification, in which the dynamics of a single nucleosome are aggregated to on/off behavior of . FLC expression at the cellular level and further integrated to a change of . FLC expression at the whole-plant level. We propose cell-population coding of winter memory: each cell is described as a bistable system that shows heterogeneous timing of the transition from on to off in . FLC expression under cold and measures the length of cold as the proportion of cells in the off state. This mechanism well explains robust . FLC regulation and stable inheritance of winter memory after cell division in response to noisy signals. Winter memory lasts longer if deposition of the repressive histone mark occurs faster. A difference in deposition speed would discriminate between stable maintenance of . FLC repression in annuals and transient expression in perennials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-17
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 7 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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