Paramutation: a trans-homolog interaction affecting heritable gene regulation

Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2012 Nov;15(5):536-43. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2012.09.003. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


Paramutation describes both the process and results of trans-sensing between chromosomes that causes specific heritable changes in gene regulation. RNA molecules are implicated in mediating similar events in maize, mouse, and Drosophila. Changes in both small RNA profiles and cytosine methylation patterns in Arabidopsis hybrids represent a potential molecular equivalent to the interactions responsible for paramutations. Despite a seemingly unifying feature of RNA-directed changes, both recent and historical works show that paramutations in maize require plant-specific proteins and lack expected hallmarks of a trans-effect mediated solely by RNAs. Recent examples of nearby transposons affecting RNA polymerase II functions lead to an opinion that paramutations represent an emergent property of the transcriptional dynamics ongoing in plant genomes between repetitious features and nearby genes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Zea mays / genetics*
  • Zea mays / metabolism


  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Plant Proteins