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Epigenetics. 2013 Aug;8(8):864-72. doi: 10.4161/epi.25524. Epub 2013 Jun 27.

Epigenetic marks in an adaptive water stress-responsive gene in tomato roots under normal and drought conditions.

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Instituto de Fisiología, Biología Molecular y Neurociencias (IFIByNE); CONICET; Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Tolerance to water deficits was evolutionarily relevant to the conquest of land by primitive plants. In this context, epigenetic events may have played important roles in the establishment of drought stress responses. We decided to inspect epigenetic marks in the plant organ that is crucial in the sensing of drought stress: the root. Using tomato as a crop model plant, we detected the methylated epialleles of Asr2, a protein-coding gene widespread in the plant kingdom and thought to alleviate restricted water availability. We found 3 contexts (CG, CNG, and CNN) of methylated cytosines in the regulatory region of Solanum lycopersicum Asr2 but only one context (CG) in the gene body. To test the hypothesis of a link between epigenetics marks and the adaptation of plants to drought, we explored the cytosine methylation status of Asr2 in the root resulting from water-deficit stress conditions. We found that a brief exposure to simulated drought conditions caused the removal of methyl marks in the regulatory region at 77 of the 142 CNN sites. In addition, the study of histone modifications around this model gene in the roots revealed that the distal regulatory region was rich in H3K27me3 but that its abundance did not change as a consequence of stress. Additionally, under normal conditions, both the regulatory and coding regions contained the typically repressive H3K9me2 mark, which was lost after 30 min of water deprivation. As analogously conjectured for the paralogous gene Asr1, rapidly acquired new Asr2 epialleles in somatic cells due to desiccation might be stable enough and heritable through the germ line across generations, thereby efficiently contributing to constitutive, adaptive gene expression during the evolution of desiccation-tolerant populations or species.


Asr2; epigenetics; methylation; roots; tomato; water stress

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