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EMBO J. 1988 Aug;7(8):2295-9.

Unmethylated CpG islands associated with genes in higher plant DNA.

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MRC Clinical and Population Cytogenetics Unit, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, UK.


The genomes of many higher plant species are the most highly methylated among eukaryotes. We report here that in spite of their heavy methylation, genomic DNAs from four plant species contain a fraction that is very rich in non-methylated sites. The fraction was characterized in maize where it represents about 2.5% of the total nuclear genome. In order to establish the genomic origin of the fraction, three maize genes containing clustered CpG were tested for methylation and were found to be non-methylated in the CpG-rich regions. By contrast, tested CpGs were methylated in a gene whose sequence showed no clustering of CpG. These observations suggest that the CpG-rich fraction of plants is at least partially derived from non-methylated regions that are associated with genes. A similar phenomenon has been described in vertebrate genomes. We discuss the evolution of CpG islands in both groups of organisms, and their possible uses in mapping and gene isolation in plants.


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