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Plant Cell. 2009 Dec;21(12):3926-36. doi: 10.1105/tpc.109.072124. Epub 2009 Dec 29.

Cell type-specific chromatin decondensation of a metabolic gene cluster in oats.

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  • 1Department of Metabolic Biology, John Ines Centre, Norwich NR4 7UH, United Kingdom.


Transcription-related chromatin decondensation has been studied in mammals for clusters of structurally and/or functionally related genes that are coordinately regulated (e.g., the homeobox locus in mice and the major histocompatability complex locus in humans). Plant genes have generally been considered to be randomly distributed throughout the genome, although several examples of metabolic gene clusters for synthesis of plant defense compounds have recently been discovered. Clustering provides for genetic linkage of genes that together confer a selective advantage and may also facilitate coordinate regulation of gene expression by enabling localized changes in chromatin structure. Here, we use cytological methods to investigate components of a metabolic gene cluster for synthesis of developmentally regulated defense compounds (avenacins) in diploid oat (Avena strigosa). Our experiments reveal that expression of the avenacin gene cluster is associated with cell type-specific chromatin decondensation, providing new insights into regulation of gene clusters in plants. Importantly, chromatin decondensation could be visualized not only at the large-scale level but down to the single gene level. We further show that the avenacin and sterol pathways are likely to be inversely regulated at the level of transcription.

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