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PLoS Genet. 2015 Dec 28;11(12):e1005724. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005724. eCollection 2015 Dec.

Dynamic Roles for Small RNAs and DNA Methylation during Ovule and Fiber Development in Allotetraploid Cotton.

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Department of Molecular Biosciences, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States of America.
State Key Laboratory of Crop Genetics and Germplasm Enhancement, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China.


DNA methylation is essential for plant and animal development. In plants, methylation occurs at CG, CHG, and CHH (H = A, C or T) sites via distinct pathways. Cotton is an allotetraploid consisting of two progenitor genomes. Each cotton fiber is a rapidly-elongating cell derived from the ovule epidermis, but the molecular basis for this developmental transition is unknown. Here we analyzed methylome, transcriptome, and small RNAome and revealed distinct changes in CHH methylation during ovule and fiber development. In ovules, CHH hypermethylation in promoters correlated positively with siRNAs, inducing RNA-dependent DNA methylation (RdDM), and up-regulation of ovule-preferred genes. In fibers, the ovule-derived cells generated additional heterochromatic CHH hypermethylation independent of RdDM, which repressed transposable elements (TEs) and nearby genes including fiber-related genes. Furthermore, CHG and CHH methylation in genic regions contributed to homoeolog expression bias in ovules and fibers. Inhibiting DNA methylation using 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine in cultured ovules has reduced fiber cell number and length, suggesting a potential role for DNA methylation in fiber development. Thus, RdDM-dependent methylation in promoters and RdDM-independent methylation in TEs and nearby genes could act as a double-lock feedback mechanism to mediate gene and TE expression, potentiating the transition from epidermal to fiber cells during ovule and seed development.

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