Epiallelic variation in Arabidopsis thaliana

Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2012;77:135-45. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2012.77.014571. Epub 2012 Dec 5.


Genotype is the primary determinate of phenotype. During the past two decades, however, there has been an emergent recognition of the epigenotype, a separate layer of heredity distinct from the primary DNA sequence that can have profound effects on phenotype. The epigenotype is a collection of chemical modifications to the DNA and nucleosomes in conjunction with noncoding RNA transcripts, and together these epigenetic marks act as a potent and expansive regulatory system for controlling gene expression. In this review, we discuss our current understanding of variation in epigenotype in the model plant Arabidopsis and how allelic differences attributable to epigenetic changes, or epialleles, can affect phenotype. We discuss examples of epialleles that have been created in the laboratory and others that have been identified in natural populations, because these two models provide complementary information regarding the genetic pathways, mechanisms of transmission, and biological and evolutionary context for the role of the epigenotype in phenotypic variation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Mutation / genetics