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Mol Plant. 2018 Feb 5;11(2):300-314. doi: 10.1016/j.molp.2017.12.006. Epub 2017 Dec 18.

Rice Interploidy Crosses Disrupt Epigenetic Regulation, Gene Expression, and Seed Development.

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State Key Laboratory of Crop Genetics and Germplasm Enhancement, Nanjing Agricultural University, 1 Weigang Road, Nanjing 210095, China.
Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Crop Genetics and Physiology, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou 225009, China.
State Key Laboratory of Crop Genetics and Germplasm Enhancement, Nanjing Agricultural University, 1 Weigang Road, Nanjing 210095, China; Department of Molecular Biosciences, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA. Electronic address:


Seed development in angiosperms requires a 2:1 maternal-to-paternal genome ratio (2m:1p) in the endosperm. When the ratio is disrupted, the seed development is impaired. Rice interploidy crosses result in endosperm failures, but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we report that the defective endosperm in rice interploidy crosses was associated with nonadditive expression of small RNAs and protein-coding genes. Interestingly, 24-nt small interfering RNAs were enriched in the 5' and 3' flanking sequences of nonadditively expressed genes in the interploidy crosses and were negatively associated with the expression of imprinted genes. Furthermore, some PRC2 family genes and DNA methylation-related genes including OsMET1b and OsCMT3a were upregulated in the 2×4 cross (pollinating a diploid "mother" with a tetraploid "father") but repressed in the reciprocal cross. These different epigenetic effects could lead to precocious or delayed cellularization during endosperm development. Notably, many endosperm-preferred genes, including starch metabolic and storage protein genes during grain filling, were found to be associated with DNA methylation or H3K27me3, which are repressed in both 2×4 and 4×2 crosses. WUSCHEL homeobox2 (WOX2)-like (WOX2L), an endosperm-preferred gene, was expressed specifically in the rice endosperm, in contrast to WOX2 expression in the Arabidopsis embryo. Disruption of WOX2L in transgenic rice by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing blocked starch and protein accumulation, resulting in seed abortion. In addition to gene repression, disrupting epigenetic process in the interploidy crosses also induced expression of stress-responsive genes. Thus, maintaining the 2m:1p genome ratio in the endosperm is essential for normal grain development in rice and other cereal crops.


endosperm; epigenetics; gene expression; polyploidy; seed; small RNA

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