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Genes Dev. 2012 Aug 15;26(16):1825-36. doi: 10.1101/gad.197772.112. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Spatial and functional relationships among Pol V-associated loci, Pol IV-dependent siRNAs, and cytosine methylation in the Arabidopsis epigenome.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Multisubunit RNA polymerases IV and V (Pols IV and V) mediate RNA-directed DNA methylation and transcriptional silencing of retrotransposons and heterochromatic repeats in plants. We identified genomic sites of Pol V occupancy in parallel with siRNA deep sequencing and methylcytosine mapping, comparing wild-type plants with mutants defective for Pol IV, Pol V, or both Pols IV and V. Approximately 60% of Pol V-associated regions encompass regions of 24-nucleotide (nt) siRNA complementarity and cytosine methylation, consistent with cytosine methylation being guided by base-pairing of Pol IV-dependent siRNAs with Pol V transcripts. However, 27% of Pol V peaks do not overlap sites of 24-nt siRNA biogenesis or cytosine methylation, indicating that Pol V alone does not specify sites of cytosine methylation. Surprisingly, the number of methylated CHH motifs, a hallmark of RNA-directed de novo methylation, is similar in wild-type plants and Pol IV or Pol V mutants. In the mutants, methylation is lost at 50%-60% of the CHH sites that are methylated in the wild type but is gained at new CHH positions, primarily in pericentromeric regions. These results indicate that Pol IV and Pol V are not required for cytosine methyltransferase activity but shape the epigenome by guiding CHH methylation to specific genomic sites.

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