DNA methylation is an important epigenetic mechanism for silencing transposons and other repetitive elements, and for stable repression of specific transgenes and endogenous genes. Plants can utilize small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to guide de novo DNA methyltransferases for the establishment of sequence-specific DNA methylation. Genetic and biochemical approaches have identified many components involved in RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM). These components function in one or more of the following three aspects: biogenesis of siRNAs, production of scaffold RNAs, and the assembly of an effector complex that involves the complementary pairing between the guide siRNAs and nascent scaffold RNAs and that recruits the DNA methyltransferases. Recent studies not only unveiled new molecular players and novel interactions, but also suggested spatial and temporal segregation of the RdDM process within the nucleus.
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