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J Exp Bot. 2017 May 17;68(11):2899-2912. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erx144.

The association of changes in DNA methylation with temperature-dependent sex determination in cucumber.

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Institute of Vegetables and Flowers, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.
Institute of Pomology & Olericulture, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu 611130, China.


Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) is characterized by its diverse and flexible sexual types. Here, we evaluated the effect of low temperature (LT) exposure on cucumber femaleness under short-day conditions. Shoot apices were subjected to whole-genome bisulfate sequencing (WGBS), mRNA-seq, and sRNA-seq. The results showed that temperature had a substantial and global impact on transposable element (TE)-related small RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) mechanisms, resulting in large amounts of CHH-type cytosine demethylation. In the cucumber genome, TEs are common in regions near genes that are also subject to DNA demethylation. TE-gene interactions showed very strong reactions to LT treatment, as nearly 80% of the differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were distributed in genic regions. Demethylation near genes led to the co-ordinated expression of genes and TEs. More importantly, genome-wide de novo methylation changes also resulted in small amounts of CG- and CHG-type DMRs. Methylation changes in CG-DMRs located <600 bp from the transcription start and end sites (TSSs/TESs) negatively correlated with transcription changes in differentially expressed genes (DEGs), probably indicating epiregulation. Ethylene is called the 'sex hormone' of cucumbers. We observed the up-regulation of ethylene biosynthesis-related CsACO3 and the down-regulation of an Arabidopsis RAP2.4-like ethylene-responsive (AP2/ERF) transcription factor, demonstrating the inferred epiregulation. Our study characterized the response of the apex methylome to LT and predicted the possible epiregulation of temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) in cucumber.


Bisulfate sequencing; environmental sex determination; low temperature treatment; methylome; sRNA sequencing; transcriptome

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