Two-step recruitment of RNA-directed DNA methylation to tandem repeats.
ABSTRACT: Tandem repeat sequences are frequently associated with gene silencing phenomena. The Arabidopsis thaliana FWA gene contains two tandem repeats and is an efficient target for RNA-directed de novo DNA methylation when it is transformed into plants. We showed that the FWA tandem repeats are necessary and sufficient for de novo DNA methylation and that repeated character rather than intrinsic sequence is likely important. Endogenous FWA can adopt either of two stable epigenetic states: methylated and silenced or unmethylated and active. Surprisingly, we found small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) associated with FWA in both states. Despite this, only the methylated form of endogenous FWA could recruit further RNA-directed DNA methylation or cause efficient de novo methylation of transgenic FWA. This suggests that RNA-directed DNA methylation occurs in two steps: first, the initial recruitment of the siRNA-producing machinery, and second, siRNA-directed DNA methylation either in cis or in trans. The efficiency of this second step varies depending on the nature of the siRNA-producing locus, and at some loci, it may require pre-existing chromatin modifications such as DNA methylation itself. Enhancement of RNA-directed DNA methylation by pre-existing DNA methylation could create a self-reinforcing system to enhance the stability of silencing. Tandem repeats throughout the Arabidopsis genome produce siRNAs, suggesting that repeat acquisition may be a general mechanism for the evolution of gene silencing.
Project description:A central question in genomic imprinting is how a specific sequence is recognized as the target for epigenetic marking. In both mammals and plants, imprinted genes are often associated with tandem repeats and transposon-related sequences, but the role of these elements in epigenetic gene silencing remains elusive. FWA is an imprinted gene in Arabidopsis thaliana expressed specifically in the female gametophyte and endosperm. Tissue-specific and imprinted expression of FWA depends on DNA methylation in the FWA promoter, which is comprised of two direct repeats containing a sequence related to a SINE retroelement. Methylation of this element causes epigenetic silencing, but it is not known whether the methylation is targeted to the SINE-related sequence itself or the direct repeat structure is also necessary. Here we show that the repeat structure in the FWA promoter is highly diverse in species within the genus Arabidopsis. Four independent tandem repeat formation events were found in three closely related species. Another related species, A. halleri, did not have a tandem repeat in the FWA promoter. Unexpectedly, even in this species, FWA expression was imprinted and the FWA promoter was methylated. In addition, our expression analysis of FWA gene in vegetative tissues revealed high frequency of intra-specific variation in the expression level. In conclusion, we show that the tandem repeat structure is dispensable for the epigenetic silencing of the FWA gene. Rather, SINE-related sequence is sufficient for imprinting, vegetative silencing, and targeting of DNA methylation. Frequent independent tandem repeat formation events in the FWA promoter led us to propose that they may be a consequence, rather than cause, of the epigenetic control. The possible significance of epigenetic variation in reproductive strategies during evolution is also discussed.
Project description:De novo DNA methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana is catalyzed by the methyltransferase DRM2, a homolog of the mammalian de novo methyltransferase DNMT3. DRM2 is targeted to DNA by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in a process known as RNA-directed DNA Methylation (RdDM). While several components of the RdDM pathway are known, a functional understanding of the underlying mechanism is far from complete. We employed both forward and reverse genetic approaches to identify factors involved in de novo methylation. We utilized the FWA transgene, which is methylated and silenced when transformed into wild-type plants, but unmethylated and expressed when transformed into de novo methylation mutants. Expression of FWA is marked by a late flowering phenotype, which is easily scored in mutant versus wild-type plants. By reverse genetics we discovered the requirement for known RdDM effectors AGO6 and NRPE5a for efficient de novo methylation. A forward genetic approach uncovered alleles of several components of the RdDM pathway, including alleles of clsy1, ktf1, and nrpd/e2, which have not been previously shown to be required for the initial establishment of DNA methylation. Mutations were mapped and genes cloned by both traditional and whole genome sequencing approaches. The methodologies and the mutant alleles discovered will be instrumental in further studies of de novo DNA methylation.
Project description:DNA methylation in transposons and other DNA repeats is conserved in plants as well as in animals. In Arabidopsis thaliana, an RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway directs de novo DNA methylation. We performed a forward genetic screen for suppressors of the DNA demethylase mutant ros1 and identified a novel Zinc-finger and OCRE domain-containing Protein 1 (ZOP1) that promotes Pol IV-dependent siRNA accumulation, DNA methylation, and transcriptional silencing. Whole-genome methods disclosed the genome-wide effects of zop1 on Pol IV-dependent siRNA accumulation and DNA methylation, suggesting that ZOP1 has both RdDM-dependent and -independent roles in transcriptional silencing. We demonstrated that ZOP1 is a pre-mRNA splicing factor that associates with several typical components of the splicing machinery as well as with Pol II. Immunofluorescence assay revealed that ZOP1 overlaps with Cajal body and is partially colocalized with NRPE1 and DRM2. Moreover, we found that the other development-defective splicing mutants tested including mac3a3b, mos4, mos12 and mos14 show defects in RdDM and transcriptional silencing. We propose that the splicing machinery rather than specific splicing factors is involved in promoting RdDM and transcriptional silencing.
Project description:Multisubunit RNA polymerases IV and V (Pols IV and V) mediate RNA-directed DNA methylation and transcriptional silencing of retrotransposons and heterochromatic repeats in plants. We identified genomic sites of Pol V occupancy in parallel with siRNA deep sequencing and methylcytosine mapping, comparing wild-type plants with mutants defective for Pol IV, Pol V, or both Pols IV and V. Approximately 60% of Pol V-associated regions encompass regions of 24-nucleotide (nt) siRNA complementarity and cytosine methylation, consistent with cytosine methylation being guided by base-pairing of Pol IV-dependent siRNAs with Pol V transcripts. However, 27% of Pol V peaks do not overlap sites of 24-nt siRNA biogenesis or cytosine methylation, indicating that Pol V alone does not specify sites of cytosine methylation. Surprisingly, the number of methylated CHH motifs, a hallmark of RNA-directed de novo methylation, is similar in wild-type plants and Pol IV or Pol V mutants. In the mutants, methylation is lost at 50%-60% of the CHH sites that are methylated in the wild type but is gained at new CHH positions, primarily in pericentromeric regions. These results indicate that Pol IV and Pol V are not required for cytosine methyltransferase activity but shape the epigenome by guiding CHH methylation to specific genomic sites.
Project description:DNA methylation is an important epigenetic mark in many eukaryotic organisms. De novo DNA methylation in plants can be achieved by the RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway, where the plant-specific DNA-dependent RNA polymerase Pol IV transcribes target sequences to initiate 24-nt siRNA production and action. The Arabidopsis DTF1/SHH1 has been shown to associate with Pol IV and is required for 24-nt siRNA accumulation and transcriptional silencing at several RdDM target loci. However, the extent and mechanism of DTF1 function in RdDM is unclear. We show here that DTF1 is necessary for the accumulation of the majority of Pol IV-dependent 24-nt siRNAs. It is also required for a large proportion of Pol IV-dependent de novo DNA methylation. Interestingly, there is a group of RdDM target loci where 24-nt siRNA accumulation but not DNA methylation is dependent on DTF1. Taken together, our results show that DTF1 is a core component of the RdDM pathway. Our results also suggest the involvement of DTF1 in an important negative feedback mechanism for DNA methylation at some RdDM target loci. Examination of whole-genome DNA methylation and small RNA in 12-day-old Col-0, dtf1-2, nrpd1-3 and nrpe1-11 seedlings
Project description:Cytosine DNA methylation is an epigenetic mark frequently associated with silencing of genes and transposons. In Arabidopsis, the establishment of cytosine DNA methylation is performed by DOMAINS REARRANGED METHYLTRANSFERASE 2 (DRM2). DRM2 is guided to target sequences by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in a pathway termed RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM). We performed a screen for mutants that affect the establishment of DNA methylation by investigating genes that contain predicted RNA-interacting domains. After transforming FWA into 429 T-DNA insertion lines, we assayed for mutants that exhibited a late-flowering phenotype due to hypomethylated, thus ectopically expressed, copies of FWA. A T-DNA insertion line within the coding region of the spliceosome gene SR45 (sr45-1) flowered late after FWA transformation. Additionally, sr45-1 mutants display defects in the maintenance of DNA methylation. DNA methylation establishment and maintenance defects present in sr45-1 mutants are enhanced in dcl3-1 mutant background, suggesting a synergistic cooperation between SR45 and DICER-LIKE3 (DCL3) in the RdDM pathway.
Project description:RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) is an important de novo DNA methylation pathway in plants. RdDM mediates the transcriptional silencing of many endogenous genomic loci, most of which are transposon related. A forward genetics screen identified DTF1 (DNA-binding transcription factor 1) as a new component for RdDM in Arabidopsis. Loss-of-function mutations in DTF1 release the transcriptional silencing of RdDM target loci and reduce the accumulation of 24-nt small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) from some of the targets. Interestingly, in the dtf1 mutant plants, the release of transcriptional gene silencing at solo-LTR is accompanied by decreased siRNA accumulation but not by reduced DNA methylation. These results suggest that DTF1 is an atypical component of RdDM and has both DNA methylation-dependent and -independent roles in transcriptional gene silencing. We suggest that besides DNA methylation, siRNAs may cause some other uncharacterized epigenetic modifications that lead to transcriptional gene silencing.
Project description:DRD1 is a SNF2-like protein previously identified in a screen for mutants defective in RNA-directed DNA methylation of a seed promoter in Arabidopsis. Although the initial study established a role for DRD1 in RNA-directed DNA methylation, it did not address whether DRD1 is needed for de novo or maintenance methylation, or whether it is required for methylation of other target sequences. We show here that DRD1 is essential for RNA-directed de novo methylation and acts on different target promoters. In addition, an unanticipated role for DRD1 in erasure of CG methylation was shown when investigating maintenance methylation after segregating away the silencing trigger. DRD1 is unique among known SNF2-like proteins in facilitating not only de novo methylation of target sequences in response to RNA signals, but also loss of methylation when the silencing inducer is withdrawn. The opposing roles of DRD1 could contribute to the dynamic regulation of DNA methylation.
Project description:DNA methylation is an important epigenetic mark in many eukaryotes. In plants, 24-nucleotide small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) bound to the effector protein, Argonaute 4 (AGO4), can direct de novo DNA methylation by the methyltransferase DRM2 (refs 2, 4-6). Here we report a new regulator of RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) in Arabidopsis: RDM1. Loss-of-function mutations in the RDM1 gene impair the accumulation of 24-nucleotide siRNAs, reduce DNA methylation, and release transcriptional gene silencing at RdDM target loci. RDM1 encodes a small protein that seems to bind single-stranded methyl DNA, and associates and co-localizes with RNA polymerase II (Pol II, also known as NRPB), AGO4 and DRM2 in the nucleus. Our results indicate that RDM1 is a component of the RdDM effector complex and may have a role in linking siRNA production with pre-existing or de novo cytosine methylation. Our results also indicate that, although RDM1 and Pol V (also known as NRPE) may function together at some RdDM target sites in the peri-nucleolar siRNA processing centre, Pol II rather than Pol V is associated with the RdDM effector complex at target sites in the nucleoplasm.
Project description:RNA-directed modification of histones is essential for the maintenance of heterochromatin in higher eukaryotes. In plants, cytosine methylation is an additional factor regulating inactive chromatin, but the mechanisms regulating the coexistence of cytosine methylation and repressive histone modification remain obscure. In this study, we analysed the mechanism of gene silencing mediated by MORPHEUS' MOLECULE1 (MOM1) of Arabidopsis thaliana. Transcript profiling revealed that the majority of up-regulated loci in mom1 carry sequences related to transposons and homologous to the 24-nt siRNAs accumulated in wild-type plants that are the hallmarks of RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM). Analysis of a single-copy gene, SUPPRESSOR OF drm1 drm2 cmt3 (SDC), revealed that mom1 activates SDC with concomitant reduction of di-methylated histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9me2) at the tandem repeats in the promoter region without changes in siRNA accumulation and cytosine methylation. The reduction of H3K9me2 is not observed in regions flanking the tandem repeats. The results suggest that MOM1 transduces RdDM signals to repressive histone modification in the core region of RdDM.