Genome-Wide Reinforcement of DNA Methylation Occurs during Somatic Embryogenesis in Soybean

Plant Cell. 2019 Oct;31(10):2315-2331. doi: 10.1105/tpc.19.00255. Epub 2019 Aug 22.


Somatic embryogenesis is an important tissue culture technique that sometimes leads to phenotypic variation via genetic and/or epigenetic changes. To understand the genomic and epigenomic impacts of somatic embryogenesis, we characterized soybean (Glycine max) epigenomes sampled from embryos at 10 different stages ranging from 6 weeks to 13 years of continuous culture. We identified genome-wide increases in DNA methylation from cultured samples, especially at CHH sites. The hypermethylation almost exclusively occurred in regions previously possessing non-CG methylation and was accompanied by increases in the expression of genes encoding the RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) machinery. The epigenomic changes were similar between somatic and zygotic embryogenesis. Following the initial global wave of hypermethylation, rare decay events of maintenance methylation were observed, and the extent of the decay increased with time in culture. These losses in DNA methylation were accompanied by downregulation of genes encoding the RdDM machinery and transcriptome reprogramming reminiscent of transcriptomes during late-stage seed development. These results reveal a process for reinforcing already silenced regions to maintain genome integrity during somatic embryogenesis over the short term, which eventually decays at certain loci over longer time scales.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Epigenome / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics
  • Gene Ontology
  • Gene Silencing
  • Genome, Plant
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Somatic Embryogenesis Techniques
  • RNA-Seq
  • Seeds / chemistry
  • Seeds / genetics*
  • Seeds / growth & development
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Soybeans / embryology
  • Soybeans / genetics*
  • Soybeans / growth & development
  • Soybeans / metabolism