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Plant J. 1995 Oct;8(4):571-81.

Maternal-specific demethylation and expression of specific alleles of zein genes in the endosperm of Zea mays L.

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Istituto Biosintesi Vegetali, CNR, Milano, Italy.


Zeins constitute 60-70% of maize endosperm protein. Zein genes are specifically transcribed in the endosperm, and a correlation has been established between tissue-specific expression and demethylation. Three inbred lines and their reciprocal crosses were analysed to assess for allele-specific differences in methylation, transcription and translation. DNAs from endosperm, embryo and seedling tissues analysed by cleavage with methylation-sensitive restriction enzymes and Southern blot hybridization with zein cDNA and genomic sequences show that specific demethylation of zein sequences occurs only in endosperm and is restricted to the maternal complements. Steady-state transcript accumulation of zein mRNA assessed by RNase protection assay reveals qualitative and quantitative differences among endosperm RNAs of the inbreds and of their reciprocal hybrids. Moreover, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of zein proteins identified polypeptides that are maternally imprinted in reciprocal crosses. These results indicate that endosperm-specific expression of specific zein alleles may occur via parental imprinting and disclose a possible role of methylation in regulating the expression of genes differently contributed in the endosperm by the maternal and paternal genomes.

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