Paramutagenicity of a p1 epiallele in maize

Goettel, W, Messing J.  2013.  


Theor Appl Genet

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Complex silencing mechanisms in plants and other kingdoms target transposons, repeat sequences, invasive viral nucleic acids and transgenes, but also endogenous genes and genes involved in paramutation. Paramutation occurs in a heterozygote when a transcriptionally active allele heritably adopts the epigenetic state of a transcriptionally and/or post-transcriptionally repressed allele. P1-rr and its silenced epiallele P1-pr, which encode a Myb-like transcription factor mediating pigmentation in floral organs of Zea mays, differ in their cytosine methylation pattern and chromatin structure at a complex enhancer site. Here, we tested whether P1-pr is able to heritably silence its transcriptionally active P1-rr allele in a heterozygote and whether DNA methylation is associated with the establishment and maintenance of P1-rr silencing. We found that P1-pr participates in paramutation as the repressing allele and P1-rr as the sensitive allele. Silencing of P1-rr is highly variable compared to the inducing P1-pr resulting in a wide range of gene expression. Whereas cytosine methylation at P1-rr is negatively correlated with transcription and pigment levels after segregation of P1-pr, methylation lags behind the establishment of the repressed p1 gene expression. We propose a model in which P1-pr paramutation is triggered by changing epigenetic states of transposons immediately adjacent to a P1-rr enhancer sequence. Considering the vast amount of transposable elements in the maize genome close to regulatory elements of genes, numerous loci could undergo paramutation-induced allele silencing, which could also have a significant impact on breeding agronomically important traits.


Goettel, WolfgangMessing, JoachimengGermany2012/09/19 06:00Theor Appl Genet. 2013 Jan;126(1):159-77. doi: 10.1007/s00122-012-1970-z. Epub 2012 Sep 18.

Related External URL:
Goettel, W, Messing J.  2013.  Paramutagenicity of a p1 epiallele in maize. Theor Appl Genet. 126:159-77.