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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 10;109(15):5880-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1120841109. Epub 2012 Mar 26.

Loss of DNA methylation affects the recombination landscape in Arabidopsis.

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Department of Plant Biology, Sciences III, University of Geneva, CH-1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland.


During sexual reproduction, one-half of the genetic material is deposited in gametes, and a complete set of chromosomes is restored upon fertilization. Reduction of the genetic information before gametogenesis occurs in meiosis, when cross-overs (COs) between homologous chromosomes secure an exchange of their genetic information. COs are not evenly distributed along chromosomes and are suppressed in chromosomal regions encompassing compact, hypermethylated centromeric and pericentromeric DNA. Therefore, it was postulated that DNA hypermethylation is inhibitory to COs. Here, when analyzing meiotic recombination in mutant plants with hypomethylated DNA, we observed unexpected and counterintuitive effects of DNA methylation losses on CO distribution. Recombination was further promoted in the hypomethylated chromosome arms while it was inhibited in heterochromatic regions encompassing pericentromeric DNA. Importantly, the total number of COs was not affected, implying that loss of DNA methylation led to a global redistribution of COs along chromosomes. To determine by which mechanisms altered levels of DNA methylation influence recombination--whether directly in cis or indirectly in trans by changing expression of genes encoding recombination components--we analyzed CO distribution in wild-type lines with randomly scattered and well-mapped hypomethylated chromosomal segments. The results of these experiments, supported by expression profiling data, suggest that DNA methylation affects meiotic recombination in cis. Because DNA methylation exhibits significant variation even within a single species, our results imply that it may influence the evolution of plant genomes through the control of meiotic recombination.

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