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Plant J. 2001 Sep;27(5):467-78.

Tissue-specific patterns of a maize Myb transcription factor are epigenetically regulated.

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Department of Zoology and Genetics and Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA.


The maize p1 gene encodes a Myb-homologous regulator of red pigment biosynthesis. To investigate the tissue-specific regulation of the p1 gene, maize plants were transformed with constructs combining promoter and cDNA sequences of two alleles which differ in pigmentation patterns: P1-wr (white pericarp/red cob) and P1-rr (red pericarp/red cob). Surprisingly, all promoter/cDNA combinations produced transgenic plants with red pericarp and red cob (RR pattern), indicating that the P1-wr promoter and encoded protein can function in pericarp. Some of the RR patterned transgenic plants produced progeny plants with white pericarp and red cob (WR pattern), and this switch in tissue-specificity correlated with increased transgene methylation. A similar inverse correlation between pericarp pigmentation and DNA methylation was observed for certain natural p1 alleles, which have a gene structure characteristic of standard P1-wr alleles, but which confer red pericarp pigmentation and are consistently less methylated than standard P1-wr alleles. Although we cannot rule out the possible existence of tissue-specific regulatory elements within the p1 non-coding sequences or flanking regions, the data from transgenic and natural alleles suggest that the tissue-specific pigmentation pattern characteristic of the P1-wr phenotype is epigenetically controlled.

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