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J Exp Bot. 2008;59(12):3271-81. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ern178. Epub 2008 Jul 17.

Isolation and expression analysis of genes encoding MET, CMT, and DRM methyltransferases in oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) in relation to the 'mantled' somaclonal variation.

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  • 1CIRAD, IRD, UMR DIAPC, BP 64501, F-34394 Montpellier, Cedex 5, France. alain.rival@cirad.fr

Abstract

In oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.), approximately 5% of somatic embryo-derived regenerants show homeotic changes during floral development, involving an apparent feminization of male parts in flowers of both sexes, called the 'mantled' phenotype. This variant phenotype is associated with a reduction in the level of global DNA methylation. To explore possible relationships between DNA methylation level and accumulation of DNA-(cytosine-5) methyltransferase (DNMT) transcripts, the full-length coding sequences corresponding to three different DNMT families in oil palm, namely the MET, CMT, and DRM classes, have been isolated and characterized. The corresponding genes were designated as EgMET1, EgCMT1, and EgDRM1, and encode predicted polypeptides of 1543, 925, and 591 amino acid residues, respectively. Expression of oil palm DNMTs was compared between normal and variant calli and inflorescence tissues using quantitative reverse-transcription PCR. A consistent increase in transcript levels of EgMET1 and EgCMT1 was found in variant fast-growing calli relative to nodular-compact calli. Nodular-compact calli give rise to about 5% of abnormal regenerants whereas fast-growing calli generate 95% of 'mantled' palms in their clonal offspring and were previously demonstrated as having markedly hypomethylated DNA. In immature abnormal inflorescences only EgMET1 transcript levels were increased, while no changes in relative abundance of the EgCMT1 or EgDRM1 transcripts were observed. Therefore, the genome-wide hypomethylation previously described in 'mantled' material cannot be explained by a decrease in expression levels of the de novo or maintenance DNMTs, a paradox which has been previously reported in tumour cells, where there is evidence for global hypomethylation of DNA.

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