University of Cambridge > > Plant Sciences Research Seminars > Investigating a mechanism for epiallele establishment in plants.

Investigating a mechanism for epiallele establishment in plants.

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Natural variation within populations may be due to differences at the level of DNA sequence or epigenetic differences which control genome expression. Epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation can result in chromatin condensation and gene repression and these modifications may be induced by environmental stimuli and are heritable. Epialleles are genetically identical regions which differ at an epigenetic level between individuals. Epialleles can influence plant phenotype and so may affect the fitness of plants in wild populations as well as influence crop breeding programmes. Although the mechanism for maintaining DNA methylation at epialleles has been described, the requirements for the establishment of new epialleles are less well understood. We identified and characterized a new Arabidopsis epiallele, designated as MRD1 . MRD1 is defined by a long non-coding RNA and when methylated causes transcriptional silencing of an associated gene. Using MRD1 as a model for a genetic analysis of epiallele establishment, we targeted DNA methylation to this region via small RNA molecules which are produced by endogenous RNA silencing pathways. Based on this genetic analysis, we propose a three phase model for the establishment of heritable DNA methylation.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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