Transcriptional silencing of 35S driven-transgene is differentially determined depending on promoter methylation heterogeneity at specific cytosines in both plus- and minus-sense strands
Wataru Matsunaga, Hanako Shimura, Senri Shirakawa, Reika Isoda, Tsuyoshi Inukai, Takeshi Matsumura, Chikara Masuta
BMC Plant Biology
De novo DNA methylation triggered by short interfering RNAs is called RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM). Transcriptional gene silencing (TGS) through RdDM can be induced using a viral vector. We have previously induced RdDM on the 35S promoter in the green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing Nicotiana benthamiana line 16c using the cucumber mosaic virus vector. The GFP fluorescence phenotype segregated into two types, "red" and "orange" in the first self-fertilized (S 1 ) progeny plants by
... e difference in degree of recovery from TGS on GFP expression. In the second self-fertilized generation (S 2 plants), the phenotypes again segregated. Explaining what generates the red and orange types could answer a very important question in epigenetics: How is the robustness of TGS maintained after RdDM induction? Results: In bisulfite sequencing analyses, we found a significant difference in the overall promoter hypermethylation pattern between the red and orange types in S 1 plants but little difference in S 2 plants. Therefore, we assumed that methylation at some specific cytosine residues might be important in determining the two phenotypes. To find the factor that discriminates stable, robust TGS from the unstable TGS with incomplete inheritance, we analyzed the direct effect of methylated cytosine residues on TGS. Because it has not yet been demonstrated that DNA methylation at a few specific cytosine residues on known sequence elements can indeed determine TGS robustness, we newly developed a method by which we can directly evaluate the effect of specific methylation on promoter activity. In this assay, we found that the effects of the specific cytosine methylation on TGS differed between the plus-and minus-strands. Conclusions: We found two distinct phenotypes, the stable and unstable TGS in the progenies of virus-induced TGS plants. Our bisulfite sequencing analyses suggested that methylation at some specific cytosine residues in the 35S promoter played a role in determining whether stable or unstable TGSs are induced. Using the developed method, we inferred that DNA methylation heterogeneity in and between the plus-and minus-strands can differentially determine TGS.