Arabidopsis MSH1 mutation alters the epigenome and produces heritable changes in plant growth

Nat Commun. 2015 Feb 27;6:6386. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7386.


Plant phenotypes respond to environmental change, an adaptive capacity that is at least partly transgenerational. However, epigenetic components of this interplay are difficult to measure. Depletion of the nuclear-encoded protein MSH1 causes dramatic and heritable changes in plant development, and here we show that crossing these altered plants with isogenic wild type produces epi-lines with heritable, enhanced growth vigour. Pericentromeric DNA hypermethylation occurs in a subset of msh1 mutants, indicative of heightened transposon repression, while enhanced growth epi-lines show large chromosomal segments of differential CG methylation, reflecting genome-wide reprogramming. When seedlings are treated with 5-azacytidine, root growth of epi-lines is restored to wild-type levels, implicating hypermethylation in enhanced growth. Grafts of wild-type floral stems to mutant rosettes produce progeny with enhanced growth and altered CG methylation strikingly similar to epi-lines, indicating a mobile signal when MSH1 is downregulated, and confirming the programmed nature of methylome and phenotype changes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Azacitidine
  • Base Sequence
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology
  • Gene Library
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • MutS DNA Mismatch-Binding Protein / genetics*
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • RNA Interference
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • DNA Primers
  • MSH1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • MutS DNA Mismatch-Binding Protein
  • Azacitidine

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE36783
  • SRA/SAMN0919714