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EMBO J. 2010 Oct 20;29(20):3496-506. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2010.227. Epub 2010 Sep 10.

Autocatalytic differentiation of epigenetic modifications within the Arabidopsis genome.

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Department of Integrated Genetics, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Shizuoka, Japan.


In diverse eukaryotes, constitutively silent sequences, such as transposons and repeats, are marked by methylation at histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9me). Although selective H3K9me is critical for maintaining genome integrity, mechanisms to exclude H3K9me from active genes remain largely unexplored. Here, we show in Arabidopsis that the exclusion depends on a histone demethylase gene, IBM1 (increase in BONSAI methylation). Loss-of-function ibm1 mutation results in ectopic H3K9me and non-CG methylation in thousands of genes. The ibm1-induced genic H3K9me depends on both histone methylase KYP/SUVH4 and DNA methylase CMT3, suggesting interdependence of two epigenetic marks--H3K9me and non-CG methylation. Notably, IBM1 enhances loss of H3K9me in transcriptionally de-repressed sequences. Furthermore, disruption of transcription in genes induces ectopic non-CG methylation, which mimics the loss of IBM1 function. We propose that active chromatin is stabilized by an autocatalytic loop of transcription and H3K9 demethylation. This process counteracts a similarly autocatalytic accumulation of silent epigenetic marks, H3K9me and non-CG methylation.

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