A novel Snf2 protein maintains trans-generational regulatory states established by paramutation in maize

PLoS Biol. 2007 Oct 16;5(10):e275. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050275.


Paramutations represent heritable epigenetic alterations that cause departures from Mendelian inheritance. While the mechanism responsible is largely unknown, recent results in both mouse and maize suggest paramutations are correlated with RNA molecules capable of affecting changes in gene expression patterns. In maize, multiple required to maintain repression (rmr) loci stabilize these paramutant states. Here we show rmr1 encodes a novel Snf2 protein that affects both small RNA accumulation and cytosine methylation of a proximal transposon fragment at the Pl1-Rhoades allele. However, these cytosine methylation differences do not define the various epigenetic states associated with paramutations. Pedigree analyses also show RMR1 does not mediate the allelic interactions that typically establish paramutations. Strikingly, our mutant analyses show that Pl1-Rhoades RNA transcript levels are altered independently of transcription rates, implicating a post-transcriptional level of RMR1 action. These results suggest the RNA component of maize paramutation maintains small heterochromatic-like domains that can affect, via the activity of a Snf2 protein, the stability of nascent transcripts from adjacent genes by way of a cotranscriptional repression process. These findings highlight a mechanism by which alleles of endogenous loci can acquire novel expression patterns that are meiotically transmissible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cytosine / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / classification
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / classification
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA Stability
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Transcription Factors / classification
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • RNA
  • Cytosine