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Genetics. 2006 Jul;173(3):1571-83. Epub 2006 Apr 19.

Partitioning of the maize epigenome by the number of methyl groups on histone H3 lysines 9 and 27.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.


We report a detailed analysis of maize chromosome structure with respect to seven histone H3 methylation states (dimethylation at lysine 4 and mono-, di-, and trimethylation at lysines 9 and 27). Three-dimensional light microscopy and the fine cytological resolution of maize pachytene chromosomes made it possible to compare the distribution of individual histone methylation events to each other and to DNA staining intensity. Major conclusions are that (1) H3K27me2 marks classical heterochromatin; (2) H3K4me2 is limited to areas between and around H3K27me2-marked chromomeres, clearly demarcating the euchromatic gene space; (3) H3K9me2 is restricted to the euchromatic gene space; (4) H3K27me3 occurs in a few (roughly seven) focused euchromatic domains; (5) centromeres and CENP-C are closely associated with H3K9me2 and H3K9me3; and (6) histone H4K20 di- and trimethylation are nearly or completely absent in maize. Each methylation state identifies different regions of the epigenome. We discuss the evolutionary lability of histone methylation profiles and draw a distinction between H3K9me2-mediated gene silencing and heterochromatin formation.

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