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J Plant Physiol. 2011 Sep 15;168(14):1685-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jplph.2011.03.017. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

Heritable alteration in DNA methylation induced by nitrogen-deficiency stress accompanies enhanced tolerance by progenies to the stress in rice (Oryza sativa L.).

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  • 1Key Laboratory of Molecular Epigenetics of MOE and Institute of Genetics & Cytology, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China.


Cytosine methylation is responsive to various biotic- and abiotic-stresses, which may produce heritable epialleles. Nitrogen (N)-deficiency is an abiotic stress being repeatedly experienced by plants. To address possible epigenetic consequences of N-deficiency-stress, we investigated the stability of cytosine methylation in rice (Oryza sativa L.) subsequent to a chronic (a whole-generation) N-deficiency at two levels, moderate (20mg/L) and severe (10mg/L), under hydroponic culture. MSAP analysis revealed that locus-specific methylation alteration occurred in leaf-tissue of the stressed plants (S(0)) experiencing either level of N-deficiency, which was validated by gel-blotting. Analysis on three non-stressed self-fed progenies (S(1), S(2) and S(3)) by gel-blotting indicated that ca. 50% of the altered methylation patterns in somatic cells (leaf) of the stressed S(0) plants were recaptured in S(1), which were then stably inherited to S(2) and S(3). Bisulfite sequencing of two variant MSAP loci with homology to low-copy retrotransposons on one stressed plant (S(0)) and its non-stressed progenies (S(1) and S(2)) showed that whereas one locus exhibited limited and non-heritable CHH methylation alteration, the other locus manifested dramatic heritable hypermethylation at nearly all cytosine sites within the assayed region. Intriguingly, when two groups of S(2) plants descended from the same N-deficiency-stressed S(0) plant were re-subjected to the stress, the group inheriting the modified methylation patterns showed enhanced tolerance to the N-deficiency-stress compared with the group bearing the original patterns. Our results thus demonstrate heritability of an acquired adaptive trait in rice, which was accompanied by epigenetic inheritance of modified cytosine methylation patterns, implicating an epigenetic basis underlying the inheritance of an acquired trait in plants.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

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