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Heredity (Edinb). 2010 Jul;105(1):14-23. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2010.52. Epub 2010 May 12.

Repeat elements and the Arabidopsis DNA methylation landscape.

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  • 1Institut de Biologie de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR8197, Institut National de La Recherche Médicale U1024, Paris, France.


DNA methylation is an epigenetic mark that has key roles in the control of genome activity in plants and mammals. It is critical for the stable silencing of repeat elements and is also involved in the epigenetic regulation of some genes. Despite similarities in the controlling functions of DNA methylation, its dynamics and deposition patterns differ in several respects between plants and mammals. One of the most striking differences is that plants tend to propagate pre-existing DNA methylation states across generations, whereas mammals re-establish them genome wide at every generation. Here, we review our current understanding of DNA methylation in the flowering plant Arabidopsis. We discuss in particular the role of RNAi in the incremental methylation and silencing of repeat elements over successive generations. We argue that paramutation, an epigenetic phenomenon first described in maize, is an extreme manifestation of this RNAi-dependent pathway.

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