The development of plants from seed is one of the most complex, complicated processes that take place in the organic world. Describing it as a miracle is no stretch. Everything must go exactly right in order for a seed to germinate. Recently researchers have identified a new mechanism to help the plants survive and successfully reproduce. This mechanism helps ensure that the seed germinates when condition are right for it, rather than germinating in the middle of winter, for example.
So what is this special mechanism that helps control the timing of seed germination? According to recent research in the journal eLife seeds inherit memories from their mothers that help them know when to germinate. This special “memory” inheritance involves careful coordination of genetics and gene expression to ensure the seed germinates properly.
Like most other sexually reproducing organisms, plants get half their DNA from their mother and a half from their father. This is carefully stored in the seed. However, prior to germination, certain genes from the father, specifically the ALN gene is silenced, and only the gene from the mother is expressed. This gene is silenced by special epigenetic means called methylation. Methylation is the addition of a methyl group to a section of the DNA strand which changes how the DNA strand is expressed. In this case, it prevents the paternal copy of the gene from being expressed at all. This helps control the time of germination of the seed.
However, the seed also carries memories of the environment its mother lived in when it was produced. If the mother produced the seed during a cold time period, both copies of the ALN gene are completely to nearly completely turned off. This genetic memory helps keep the seed from germinating too quickly. However, once germination occurs, the seed will turn the ALN genes back on, and essentially push the reset button. In other words, the memory is only passed from mother to child, not on to the grandchildren. This incredible design ensures that each parent can pass on information about the environment to its offspring. This enables the plants to adapt to a change in the environment in one generation.
The ALN gene being turned off is due to a specialized piece of RNA that is put into the seed. It is called “interfering” RNA. The function of this RNA appears to be to control DNA methylation. It would seem that this is a feature that was designed into the genome from the beginning.
This discovery is very interesting and might help explain how plants so readily adapt to changes in environmental conditions. Many plants can live and thrive in a wide range of conditions, from intermittently cold to warm most of the year. This could allow them to survive and spread freely, even in a post-flood world where the climate would have rapidly changed as part of the fall out from the flood.
One of the most interesting aspects of this article is the complete lack of any attempt at an evolutionary tie in. Most research articles attempt to pay at least lip service to the evolutionary dogma. This article does not mention evolution once, either in the journal article or the Science Daily write up. It is very rare for researchers in the science field to not at least mention evolution in passing, or speculate on how something evolved.
Perhaps the reason that these researchers did not speculate on the evolution of these organisms is that evolution has no explanation for the origins of this genetic activity. Think about it for a moment. How would evolution explain how the seed knows to methylate its DNA at just the right point to turn off the ALN gene if it was formed in the cold? How would it know to produce the RNA it needs to perform that task? What mechanism causes DNA methylation to work in the first place and how did it evolve? Evolution has no explanations for this. A blind chance process such as evolution postulates cannot produce the specified complexity necessary to have seeds retaining memories of the climate their mothers endured to produce them. It is simply impossible. Creation makes a much better, more logical explanation.
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