Natural variation for alleles under epigenetic control by the maize chromomethylase Zmet2

Irina Makarevitch, Robert M. Stupar, A. Leonardo Iniguez, William J. Haun, W. Brad Barbazuk, Shawn M. Kaeppler, Nathan M. Springer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The contribution of epigenetic alterations to natural variation for gene transcription levels remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the functional targets of the maize chromomethylase ZMET2 in multiple inbred lines to determine whether epigenetic changes conditioned by this chromomethylase are conserved or variable within the species. Gene expression microarrays were hybridized with RNA samples from the inbred lines B73 and Mo17 and from near-isogenic derivatives containing the loss-of-function allele zmet2-m1. A set of 126 genes that displayed statistically significant differential expression in zmet2 mutants relative to wild-type plants in at least one of the two genetic backgrounds was identified. Analysis of the transcript levels in both wild-type and mutant individuals revealed that only 10% of these genes were affected in zmet2 mutants in both B73 and Mo17 genetic backgrounds. Over 80% of the genes with expression patterns affected by zmet2 mutations display variation for gene expression between wild-type B73 and Mo17 plants. Further analysis was performed for 7 genes that were transcriptionally silent in wildtype B73, but expressed in B73 zmet2-m1, wild-type Mo17, and Mo17 zmet2-m1 lines. Mapping experiments confirmed that the expression differences in wild-type B73 relative to Mo17 inbreds for these genes were caused by cis-acting regulatory variation. Methylation-sensitive PCR and bisulfite sequencing demonstrated that for 5 of these genes the CpNpG methylation in the wild-type B73 genetic background was substantially decreased in the B73 zmet2-m1 mutant and in wild-type Mo17. A survey of eight maize inbreds reveals that each of these 5 genes exhibit transcriptionally silent and methylated states in some inbred lines and unmethylated, expressed states in other inbreds, providing evidence for natural variation in epigenetic states for some maize genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)749-760
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2007


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