Genes and transposons can exist in variable DNA methylation states, with potentially differential transcription. How these epialleles emerge is poorly understood. Here, we show that crossing an Arabidopsis thaliana plant with a hypomethylated genome and a normally methylated WT individual results, already in the F1 generation, in widespread changes in DNA methylation and transcription patterns. Novel nonparental and heritable epialleles arise at many genic loci, including a locus that itself controls DNA methylation patterns, but with most of the changes affecting pericentromeric transposons. Although a subset of transposons show immediate resilencing, a large number display decreased DNA methylation, which is associated with de novo or enhanced transcriptional activation and can translate into transposon mobilization in the progeny. Our findings reveal that the combination of distinct epigenomes can be viewed as an epigenomic shock, which is characterized by a round of epigenetic variation creating novel patterns of gene and TE regulation.
Keywords: Arabidopsis; DNA methylation; gene silencing; transcription; transposable elements.