ABSTRACT: RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) is a biological process in which non-coding RNA molecules direct the addition of DNA methylation to specific DNA sequences. The RdDM pathway is unique to plants, although other mechanisms of RNA-directed chromatin modification have also been described in fungi and animals. To date, the RdDM pathway is best characterized within angiosperms (flowering plants), and particularly within the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. However, conserved RdDM pathway components and associated small RNAs (sRNAs) have also been found in other groups of plants, such as gymnosperms and ferns. The RdDM pathway closely resembles other sRNA pathways, particularly the highly conserved RNAi pathway found in fungi, plants, and animals. Both the RdDM and RNAi pathways produce sRNAs and involve conserved Argonaute, Dicer and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase proteins. RdDM has been implicated in a number of regulatory processes in plants. The DNA methylation added by RdDM is generally associated with transcriptional repression of the genetic sequences targeted by the pathway. Since DNA methylation patterns in plants are heritable, these changes can often be stably transmitted to progeny. As a result, one prominent role of RdDM is the stable, transgenerational suppression of transposable element (TE) activity. RdDM has also been linked to pathogen defense, abiotic stress responses, and the regulation of several key developmental transitions. Although the RdDM pathway has a number of important functions, RdDM-defective mutants in Arabidopsis thaliana are viable and can reproduce, which has enabled detailed genetic studies of the pathway. However, RdDM mutants can have a range of defects in different plant species, including lethality, altered reproductive phenotypes, TE upregulation and genome instability, and increased pathogen sensitivity. Overall, RdDM is an important pathway in plants that regulates a number of processes by establishing and reinforcing specific DNA methylation patterns, which can lead to transgenerational epigenetic effects on gene expression and phenotype.
Project description:In plants, RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM), a mechanism where epigenetic modifiers are guided to target loci by small RNAs, plays a major role in silencing of transposable elements (TEs) to maintain genome integrity. So far, two RdDM pathways have been identified: RNA Polymerase IV (PolIV)-RdDM and RNA-dependent RNA Polymerase 6 (RDR6)-RdDM. PolIV-RdDM involves a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism that maintains TE silencing, but cannot explain how epigenetic silencing is first initiated. A function of RDR6-RdDM is to reestablish epigenetic silencing of active TEs, but it is unknown if this pathway can induce DNA methylation at naïve, non-TE loci. To investigate de novo establishment of RdDM, we have used virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) of an active flowering Wageningen epiallele. Using genetic mutants we show that unlike PolIV-RdDM, but like RDR6-RdDM, establishment of VIGS-mediated RdDM requires PolV and DRM2 but not Dicer like-3 and other PolIV pathway components. DNA methylation in VIGS is likely initiated by a process guided by virus-derived small (s) RNAs that are 21/22-nt in length and reinforced or maintained by 24-nt sRNAs. We demonstrate that VIGS-RdDM as a tool for gene silencing can be enhanced by use of mutant plants with increased production of 24-nt sRNAs to reinforce the level of RdDM.
Project description:Short non-coding RNA molecules (sRNAs) play a fundamental role in gene regulation and development in higher organisms. They act as molecular postcodes and guide AGO proteins to target nucleic acids. In plants, sRNA-targeted mRNAs are degraded, reducing gene expression. In contrast, sRNA-targeted DNA sequences undergo cytosine methylation referred to as RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM). Cytosine methylation can suppress transcription, thus sRNAs are potent regulators of gene expression. sRNA-mediated RdDM is involved in genome stability through transposon silencing, mobile signalling for epigenetic gene control and hybrid vigour. Since cytosine methylation can be passed on to subsequent generations, RdDM contributes to transgenerational inheritance of the epigenome. Using a novel approach, which can differentiate between primary (inducer) and secondary (amplified) sRNAs, we show that initiation of heritable RdDM does not require complete sequence complementarity between the sRNAs and their nuclear target sequences. sRNAs with up to four regularly interspaced mismatches are potent inducers of RdDM, however, the number and disruptive nature of nucleotide polymorphisms negatively correlate with their efficacy. Our findings contribute to understanding how sRNA can directly shape the epigenome and may be used in designing the next generation of RNA silencing constructs.
Project description:De novo DNA methylation through the RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway and active DNA demethylation play important roles in controlling genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in plants. Little is known about how cells manage the balance between DNA methylation and active demethylation activities. Here, we report the identification of a unique RdDM target sequence, where DNA methylation is required for maintaining proper active DNA demethylation of the Arabidopsis genome. In a genetic screen for cellular antisilencing factors, we isolated several REPRESSOR OF SILENCING 1 (ros1) mutant alleles, as well as many RdDM mutants, which showed drastically reduced ROS1 gene expression and, consequently, transcriptional silencing of two reporter genes. A helitron transposon element (TE) in the ROS1 gene promoter negatively controls ROS1 expression, whereas DNA methylation of an RdDM target sequence between ROS1 5' UTR and the promoter TE region antagonizes this helitron TE in regulating ROS1 expression. This RdDM target sequence is also targeted by ROS1, and defective DNA demethylation in loss-of-function ros1 mutant alleles causes DNA hypermethylation of this sequence and concomitantly causes increased ROS1 expression. Our results suggest that this sequence in the ROS1 promoter region serves as a DNA methylation monitoring sequence (MEMS) that senses DNA methylation and active DNA demethylation activities. Therefore, the ROS1 promoter functions like a thermostat (i.e., methylstat) to sense DNA methylation levels and regulates DNA methylation by controlling ROS1 expression.
Project description:Transposable elements (TEs) compose the majority of angiosperm DNA. Plants counteract TE activity by silencing them epigenetically. One form of epigenetic silencing requires 21-22?nt small interfering RNAs that act to degrade TE mRNA and may also trigger DNA methylation. DNA methylation is reinforced by a second mechanism, the RNA-dependent DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway. RdDM relies on 24?nt small interfering RNAs and ultimately establishes TEs in a quiescent state. These host factors interact at a systems level, but there have been no system level analyses of their interactions. Here, we define a deterministic model that represents the propagation of active TEs, aspects of the host response and the accumulation of silenced TEs. We describe general properties of the model and also fit it to biological data in order to explore two questions. The first is why two overlapping pathways are maintained, given that both are likely energetically expensive. Under our model, RdDM silenced TEs effectively even when the initiation of silencing was weak. This relationship implies that only a small amount of RNAi is needed to initiate TE silencing, but reinforcement by RdDM is necessary to efficiently counter TE propagation. Second, we investigated the reliance of the host response on rates of TE deletion. The model predicted that low levels of deletion lead to few active TEs, suggesting that silencing is most efficient when methylated TEs are retained in the genome, thereby providing one explanation for the large size of plant genomes.
Project description:RNA silencing at the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels regulates endogenous gene expression, controls invading transposable elements (TEs), and protects the cell against viruses. Key components of the mechanism are small RNAs (sRNAs) of 21-24 nt that guide the silencing machinery to their nucleic acid targets in a nucleotide sequence-specific manner. Transcriptional gene silencing is associated with 24-nt sRNAs and RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) at cytosine residues in three DNA sequence contexts (CG, CHG, and CHH). We previously demonstrated that 24-nt sRNAs are mobile from shoot to root in Arabidopsis thaliana and confirmed that they mediate DNA methylation at three sites in recipient cells. In this study, we extend this finding by demonstrating that RdDM of thousands of loci in root tissues is dependent upon mobile sRNAs from the shoot and that mobile sRNA-dependent DNA methylation occurs predominantly in non-CG contexts. Mobile sRNA-dependent non-CG methylation is largely dependent on the DOMAINS REARRANGED METHYLTRANSFERASES 1/2 (DRM1/DRM2) RdDM pathway but is independent of the CHROMOMETHYLASE (CMT)2/3 DNA methyltransferases. Specific superfamilies of TEs, including those typically found in gene-rich euchromatic regions, lose DNA methylation in a mutant lacking 22- to 24-nt sRNAs (dicer-like 2, 3, 4 triple mutant). Transcriptome analyses identified a small number of genes whose expression in roots is associated with mobile sRNAs and connected to DNA methylation directly or indirectly. Finally, we demonstrate that sRNAs from shoots of one accession move across a graft union and target DNA methylation de novo at normally unmethylated sites in the genomes of root cells from a different accession.
Project description:DNA methylation is a conserved epigenetic marker in plants and animals. In Arabidopsis, DNA methylation can be established through an RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway. By screening for suppressors of ros1, we identified STA1, a PRP6-like splicing factor, as a new RdDM regulator. Whole-genome bisulfite sequencing suggested that STA1 and the RdDM pathway share a large number of common targets in the Arabidopsis genome. Small RNA deep sequencing demonstrated that STA1 is predominantly involved in the accumulation of the siRNAs that depend on both Pol IV and Pol V. Moreover, the sta1 mutation partially reduces the levels of Pol V-dependent RNA transcripts. Immunolocalization assay indicated that STA1 signals are exclusively present in the Cajal body and overlap with AGO4 in most nuclei. STA1 signals are also partially overlap with NRPE1. Localization of STA1 to AGO4 and NRPE1 signals is probably related to the function of STA1 in the RdDM pathway. Based on these results, we propose that STA1 acts downstream of siRNA biogenesis and facilitates the production of Pol V-dependent RNA transcripts in the RdDM pathway.
Project description:DNA methylation is a conserved epigenetic mark in plants and mammals. In Arabidopsis, DNA methylation can be triggered by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) through an RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway. Here, we report the identification of an RdDM effector, KTF1. Loss-of-function mutations in KTF1 reduce DNA methylation and release the silencing of RdDM target loci without abolishing the siRNA triggers. KTF1 has similarity to the transcription elongation factor SPT5 and contains a C-terminal extension rich in GW/WG repeats. KTF1 colocalizes with ARGONAUTE 4 (AGO4) in punctate nuclear foci and binds AGO4 and RNA transcripts. Our results suggest KTF1 as an adaptor protein that binds scaffold transcripts generated by Pol V and recruits AGO4 and AGO4-bound siRNAs to form an RdDM effector complex. The dual interaction of an effector protein with AGO and small RNA target transcripts may be a general feature of RNA-silencing effector complexes.
Project description:Transposable elements (TEs) generate mutations and chromosomal instability when active. To repress TE activity, eukaryotic cells evolved mechanisms to both degrade TE mRNAs into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and modify TE chromatin to epigenetically inhibit transcription. Since the populations of small RNAs that participate in TE post-transcriptional regulation differ from those that establish RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM), the mechanism through which transcriptionally active TEs transition from post-transcriptional RNAi regulation to chromatin level control has remained unclear. We have identified the molecular mechanism of a plant pathway that functions to direct DNA methylation to transcriptionally active TEs. We demonstrated that 21-22 nucleotide (nt) siRNA degradation products from the RNAi of TE mRNAs are directly incorporated into the ARGONAUTE 6 (AGO6) protein and direct AGO6 to TE chromatin to guide its function in RdDM. We find that this pathway functions in reproductive precursor cells to primarily target long centromeric high-copy transcriptionally active TEs for RdDM prior to gametogenesis. This study provides a direct mechanism that bridges the gap between the post-transcriptional regulation of TEs and the establishment of TE epigenetic silencing.
Project description:The RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway can be divided into three phases: 1) small interfering RNA biogenesis, 2) de novo methylation, and 3) chromatin modification. To determine the degree of conservation of this pathway we searched for key genes among land plants. We used OrthoMCL and the OrthoMCL Viridiplantae database to analyze proteomes of species in bryophytes, lycophytes, monilophytes, gymnosperms, and angiosperms. We also analyzed small RNA size categories and, in two gymnosperms, cytosine methylation in ribosomal DNA. Six proteins were restricted to angiosperms, these being NRPD4/NRPE4, RDM1, DMS3 (defective in meristem silencing 3), SHH1 (SAWADEE homeodomain homolog 1), KTF1, and SUVR2, although we failed to find the latter three proteins in Fritillaria persica, a species with a giant genome. Small RNAs of 24 nt in length were abundant only in angiosperms. Phylogenetic analyses of Dicer-like (DCL) proteins showed that DCL2 was restricted to seed plants, although it was absent in Gnetum gnemon and Welwitschia mirabilis. The data suggest that phases (1) and (2) of the RdDM pathway, described for model angiosperms, evolved with angiosperms. The absence of some features of RdDM in F. persica may be associated with its large genome. Phase (3) is probably the most conserved part of the pathway across land plants. DCL2, involved in virus defense and interaction with the canonical RdDM pathway to facilitate methylation of CHH, is absent outside seed plants. Its absence in G. gnemon, and W. mirabilis coupled with distinctive patterns of CHH methylation, suggest a secondary loss of DCL2 following the divergence of Gnetales.
Project description:DNA methylation is a conserved epigenetic mark that is critical for many biological processes in plants and mammals. In Arabidopsis, the antagonistic activities of RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) and ROS1-dependent active DNA demethylation are key for the dynamic regulation of locus-specific DNA methylation. However, the molecular factors that coordinate RdDM and active demethylation are largely unknown. Here we report that CLSY4 and its three paralogous SWI2/SNF2-type chromatin-remodeling proteins function in both RdDM and DNA demethylation in Arabidopsis. We initially identified CLSY4 in a genetic screen for DNA demethylation factors and subsequently demonstrated that it also is important in RdDM. Comprehensive genetic analyses using single and high order mutants of CLSY family proteins revealed their roles as double agents in the balance between methylation and demethylation reactions. The four CLSY proteins collectively are necessary for the canonical RdDM pathway; at the same time, each CLSY likely mediates DNA demethylation at specific loci where DNA methylation depends on RdDM. These results indicate that the four chromatin-remodeling proteins have dual functions in regulating genomic DNA methylation, and thus provide new insights into the dynamic regulation of DNA methylation in a model multicellular eukaryotic organism.