DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification that specifies the basic state of pluripotent stem cells and regulates the developmental transition from stem cells to various cell types. In flowering plants, the shoot apical meristem (SAM) contains a pluripotent stem cell population which generates the aerial part of plants including the germ cells. Under appropriate conditions, the SAM undergoes a developmental transition from a leaf-forming vegetative SAM to an inflorescence- and flower-forming reproductive SAM. While SAM characteristics are largely altered in this transition, the complete picture of DNA methylation remains elusive. Here, by analyzing whole-genome DNA methylation of isolated rice SAMs in the vegetative and reproductive stages, we show that methylation at CHH sites is kept high, particularly at transposable elements (TEs), in the vegetative SAM relative to the differentiated leaf, and increases in the reproductive SAM via the RNA-dependent DNA methylation pathway. We also show that half of the TEs that were highly methylated in gametes had already undergone CHH hypermethylation in the SAM. Our results indicate that changes in DNA methylation begin in the SAM long before germ cell differentiation to protect the genome from harmful TEs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)