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Genes Dev. 2017 Jun 15;31(12):1272-1287. doi: 10.1101/gad.299347.117. Epub 2017 Jul 25.

Ectopic application of the repressive histone modification H3K9me2 establishes post-zygotic reproductive isolation in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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Department of Plant Biology, Uppsala BioCenter, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Linnean Center of Plant Biology, Uppsala 75007, Sweden.
Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent University, Ghent 9052, Belgium.
VIB Center for Plant Systems Biology, Ghent 9052, Belgium.
Department of Biochemistry, Ghent University, Ghent 9052, Belgium.
VIB Center for Medical Biotechnology, Ghent 9052, Belgium.


Hybrid seed lethality as a consequence of interspecies or interploidy hybridizations is a major mechanism of reproductive isolation in plants. This mechanism is manifested in the endosperm, a dosage-sensitive tissue supporting embryo growth. Deregulated expression of imprinted genes such as ADMETOS (ADM) underpin the interploidy hybridization barrier in Arabidopsis thaliana; however, the mechanisms of their action remained unknown. In this study, we show that ADM interacts with the AT hook domain protein AHL10 and the SET domain-containing SU(VAR)3-9 homolog SUVH9 and ectopically recruits the heterochromatic mark H3K9me2 to AT-rich transposable elements (TEs), causing deregulated expression of neighboring genes. Several hybrid incompatibility genes identified in Drosophila encode for dosage-sensitive heterochromatin-interacting proteins, which has led to the suggestion that hybrid incompatibilities evolve as a consequence of interspecies divergence of selfish DNA elements and their regulation. Our data show that imbalance of dosage-sensitive chromatin regulators underpins the barrier to interploidy hybridization in Arabidopsis, suggesting that reproductive isolation as a consequence of epigenetic regulation of TEs is a conserved feature in animals and plants.


endosperm; heterochromatin; hybrid incompatibility; imprinted genes; polyploidy; transposable elements

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