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J Biol Chem. 2002 Oct 4;277(40):37741-6. Epub 2002 Jul 17.

Periodic DNA methylation in maize nucleosomes and demethylation by environmental stress.

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  • 1Research and Education Center for Genetic Information, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Nara 630-0101, Japan.

Abstract

When maize seedlings were exposed to cold stress, a genome-wide demethylation occurred in root tissues. Screening of genomic DNA identified one particular fragment that was demethylated during chilling. This 1.8-kb fragment, designated ZmMI1, contained part of the coding region of a putative protein and part of a retrotransposon-like sequence. ZmMI1 was transcribed only under cold stress. Direct methylation mapping revealed that hypomethylated regions spanning 150 bases alternated with hypermethylated regions spanning 50 bases. Analysis of nuclear DNA digested with micrococcal nuclease indicated that these regions corresponded to nucleosome cores and linkers, respectively. Cold stress induced severe demethylation in core regions but left linker regions relatively intact. Thus, methylation and demethylation were periodic in nucleosomes. The following biological significance is conceivable. First, because DNA methylation in nucleosomes induces alteration of gene expression by changing chromatin structures, vast demethylation may serve as a common switch for many genes that are simultaneously controlled upon environmental cues. Second, because artificial demethylation induces heritable changes in plant phenotype (Sano, H., Kamada, I., Youssefian, S., Katsumi, M., and Wabilko, H. (1990) Mol. Gen. Genet. 220, 441-447), altered DNA methylation may result in epigenetic inheritance, in which gene expression is modified without changing the nucleotide sequence.

PMID:
12124387
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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