Single-base methylome profiling of the giant kelp Saccharina japonica reveals significant differences in DNA methylation to microalgae and plants

New Phytol. 2020 Jan;225(1):234-249. doi: 10.1111/nph.16125. Epub 2019 Sep 27.


Brown algae have convergently evolved plant-like body plans and reproductive cycles, which in plants are controlled by differential DNA methylation. This contribution provides the first single-base methylome profiles of haploid gametophytes and diploid sporophytes of a multicellular alga. Although only c. 1.4% of cytosines in Saccharina japonica were methylated mainly at CHH sites and characterized by 5-methylcytosine (5mC), there were significant differences between life-cycle stages. DNA methyltransferase 2 (DNMT2), known to efficiently catalyze tRNA methylation, is assumed to methylate the genome of S. japonica in the structural context of tRNAs as the genome does not encode any other DNA methyltransferases. Circular and long noncoding RNA genes were the most strongly methylated regulatory elements in S. japonica. Differential expression of genes was negatively correlated with DNA methylation with the highest methylation levels measured in both haploid gametophytes. Hypomethylated and highly expressed genes in diploid sporophytes included genes involved in morphogenesis and halogen metabolism. The data herein provide evidence that cytosine methylation, although occurring at a low level, is significantly contributing to the formation of different life-cycle stages, tissue differentiation and metabolism in brown algae.

Keywords: BS-PCR; DNA methylation; DNMT2; MeDIP-seq; WGBS-seq; brown algae; gene expression; life-cycle stages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Plant / genetics
  • Cytosine / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genome, Plant
  • Heterozygote
  • Kelp / genetics*
  • Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Microalgae / genetics*
  • Oxidoreductases, O-Demethylating / metabolism
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Cytosine
  • Oxidoreductases, O-Demethylating
  • Methyltransferases

Associated data

  • GENBANK/GSE117191
  • GENBANK/SRR5860561
  • GENBANK/SRR5860568
  • GENBANK/CNP0000364