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Title: The maize gene maternal derepression of r1 encodes a DNA glycosylase that demethylates DNA and reduces siRNA expression in the endosperm

Demethylation of transposons can activate the expression of nearby genes and cause imprinted gene expression in the endosperm; this demethylation is hypothesized to lead to expression of transposon small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that reinforce silencing in the next generation through transfer either into egg or embryo. Here we describe maize (Zea mays) maternal derepression of r1 (mdr1), which encodes a DNA glycosylase with homology to Arabidopsis thaliana DEMETER and which is partially responsible for demethylation of thousands of regions in endosperm. Instead of promoting siRNA expression in endosperm, MDR1 activity inhibits it. Methylation of most repetitive DNA elements in endosperm is not significantly affected by MDR1, with an exception of Helitrons. While maternally-expressed imprinted genes preferentially overlap with MDR1 demethylated regions, the majority of genes that overlap demethylated regions are not imprinted. Double mutant megagametophytes lacking both MDR1 and its close homolog DNG102 result in early seed failure, and double mutant microgametophytes fail pre-fertilization. These data establish DNA demethylation by glycosylases as essential in maize endosperm and pollen and suggest that neither transposon repression nor genomic imprinting is its main function in endosperm.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Plant Cell
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 3685-3701
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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