Cytosine methylation is an important mechanism for dynamical regulation of gene expression and transposable element (TE) mobility during plant developmental processes. Here, we identified the transcription start sites of genes using high-throughput sequencing and then analyzed the DNA methylation status in soybean roots, stems, leaves, and cotyledons of developing seeds at single-base resolution. Profiling of DNA methylation in different organs revealed 2162 differentially methylated regions among organs, and a portion of hypomethylated regions were correlated with high expression of neighboring genes. Because of the different distribution of class I TEs (retrotransposons) and class II TEs (DNA transposons), the promoters of the lowest-expressed genes showed higher levels of CG and CHG methylation but a lower level of CHH methylation. We further found that the CHH methylation level of class II TEs was higher than class I TEs, possibly due to the presence of more smRNAs in class II TEs. In cotyledons of developing seeds, smRNA abundance was roughly positively correlated with hypermethylated regions but negatively related to hypomethylated regions. These studies provide significant insights into the complicated interplays among DNA methylation, smRNA abundance, TE distribution, and gene expression in soybean.
Keywords: DNA methylation; differentially methylated regions; organs.; soybean.