RNAi of met1 reduces DNA methylation and induces genome-specific changes in gene expression and centromeric small RNA accumulation in Arabidopsis allopolyploids

Genetics. 2008 Apr;178(4):1845-58. doi: 10.1534/genetics.107.086272.


Changes in genome structure and gene expression have been documented in both resynthesized and natural allopolyploids that contain two or more divergent genomes. The underlying mechanisms for rapid and stochastic changes in gene expression are unknown. Arabidopsis suecica is a natural allotetraploid derived from the extant A. thaliana and A. arenosa genomes that are homeologous in the allotetraploid. Here we report that RNAi of met1 reduced DNA methylation and altered the expression of approximately 200 genes, many of which encode transposons, predicted proteins, and centromeric and heterochromatic RNAs. Reduced DNA methylation occurred frequently in promoter regions of the upregulated genes, and an En/Spm-like transposon was reactivated in met1-RNAi A. suecica lines. Derepression of transposons, heterochromatic repeats, and centromeric small RNAs was primarily derived from the A. thaliana genome, and A. arenosa homeologous loci were less affected by methylation defects. A high level of A. thaliana centromeric small RNA accumulation was correlated with hypermethylation of A. thaliana centromeres. The greater effects of reduced DNA methylation on transposons and centromeric repeats in A. thaliana than in A. arenosa are consistent with the repression of many genes that are expressed at higher levels in A. thaliana than in A. arenosa in the resynthesized allotetraploids. Moreover, non-CG (CC) methylation in the promoter region of A. thaliana At2g23810 remained in the resynthesized allotetraploids, and the methylation spread within the promoter region in natural A. suecica, leading to silencing of At2g23810. At2g23810 was demethylated and reactivated in met1-RNAi A. suecica lines. We suggest that many A. thaliana genes are transcriptionally repressed in resynthesized allotetraploids, and a subset of A. thaliana loci including transposons and centromeric repeats are heavily methylated and subjected to homeologous genome-specific RNA-mediated DNA methylation in natural allopolyploids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Centromere / metabolism
  • Chromosomes, Plant / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Genes, Plant
  • Genome, Plant / genetics
  • Heterochromatin / genetics
  • Polyploidy*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation / genetics


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Heterochromatin
  • RNA, Plant
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • MET1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases