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Science. 2009 Mar 20;323(5921):1600-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1165313. Epub 2009 Jan 29.

A role for RNAi in the selective correction of DNA methylation defects.

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  • 1Unité de Recherche en Génomique Végétale, CNRS UMR 8114, Institut National de la Recherche Argonomique UMR 1165, Université d'Evry Val d'Essonne, 91057 Evry Cedex, France.


DNA methylation is essential for silencing transposable elements and some genes in higher eukaryotes, which suggests that this modification must be tightly controlled. However, accidental changes in DNA methylation can be transmitted through mitosis (as in cancer) or meiosis, leading to epiallelic variation. We demonstrated the existence of an efficient mechanism that protects against transgenerational loss of DNA methylation in Arabidopsis. Remethylation is specific to the subset of heavily methylated repeats that are targeted by the RNA interference (RNAi) machinery. This process does not spread into flanking regions, is usually progressive over several generations, and faithfully restores wild-type methylation over target sequences in an RNAi-dependent manner. Our findings suggest an important role for RNAi in protecting genomes against long-term epigenetic defects.

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