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Plant J. 2009 Apr;58(2):333-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03782.x. Epub 2009 Jan 27.

Epigenetic programming via histone methylation at WRKY53 controls leaf senescence in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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1
Department of Plant Physiology, Institute of Biology, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Weinbergweg 10, D-06120 Halle, Germany.

Abstract

Leaf senescence, the final step of leaf development, involves extensive reprogramming of gene expression. Here, we show that these processes include discrete changes of epigenetic indexing, as well as global alterations in chromatin organization. During leaf senescence, the interphase nuclei show a decondensation of chromocenter heterochromatin, and changes in the nuclear distribution of the H3K4me2, H3K4me3, and the H3K27me2 and H3K27me3 histone modification marks that index active and inactive chromatin, respectively. Locus-specific epigenetic indexing was studied at the WRKY53 key regulator of leaf senescence. During senescence, when the locus becomes activated, H3K4me2 and H3K4me3 are significantly increased at the 5' end and at coding regions. Impairment of these processes is observed in plants overexpressing the SUVH2 histone methyltransferase, which causes ectopic heterochromatization. In these plants the transcriptional initiation of WRKY53 and of the senescence-associated genes SIRK, SAG101, ANAC083, SAG12 and SAG24 is inhibited, resulting in a delay of leaf senescence. In SUVH2 overexpression plants, significant levels of H3K27me2 and H3K27me3 are detected at the 5'-end region of WRKY53, resulting in its transcriptional repression. Furthermore, SUVH2 overexpression inhibits senescence-associated global changes in chromatin organization. Our data suggest that complex epigenetic processes control the senescence-specific gene expression pattern.

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