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Epigenetic variation, inheritance, and parent-of-origin effects of cytosine methylation in maize (Zea mays).

ABSTRACT: Pure epigenetic variation, or epigenetic variation that is independent of genetic context, may provide a mechanism for phenotypic variation in the absence of DNA mutations. To estimate the extent of pure epigenetic variation within and across generations and to identify the DNA regions targeted, a group of eight plants derived from a highly inbred line of maize (Zea mays) was analyzed by the methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism (MSAP) technique. We found that cytosine methylation (mC) differences among individuals accounted for up to 7.4% of CCGG sites investigated by MSAP. Of the differentially methylated fragments (DMFs) identified in the S0 generation, ?12% were meiotically inherited for at least six generations. We show that meiotically heritable mC variation was consistently generated for an average of 0.5% CCGG sites per generation and that it largely occurred somatically. We provide evidence that mC variation can be established and inherited in a parent-of-origin manner, given that the paternal lineage is more prone to both forward and reverse mC changes. The molecular characterization of selected DMFs revealed that the variation was largely determined by CG methylation changes that map within gene regions. The expression analysis of genes overlapping with DMFs did not reveal an obvious correlation between mC variation and transcription, reinforcing the idea that the primary function of gene-body methylation is not to control gene expression. Because this study focuses on epigenetic variation in field-grown plants, the data presented herein pertain to spontaneous epigenetic changes of the maize genome in a natural context.


PROVIDER: S-EPMC3948798 | BioStudies | 2014-01-01T00:00:00Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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