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  1. Abstract

    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.

  2. Abstract Transposable elements (TEs) pervade most eukaryotic genomes. The repetitive nature of TEs complicates the analysis of their expression. Evaluation of the expression of both TE families (using unique and multi-mapping reads) and specific elements (using uniquely mapping reads) in leaf tissue of three maize (Zea mays) inbred lines subjected to heat or cold stress reveals no evidence for genome-wide activation of TEs; however, some specific TE families generate transcripts only in stress conditions. There is substantial variation for which TE families exhibit stress-responsive expression in the different genotypes. In order to understand the factors that drive expression of TEs, we focused on a subset of families in which we could monitor expression of individual elements. The stress-responsive activation of a TE family can often be attributed to a small number of elements in the family that contains regions lacking DNA methylation. Comparisons of the expression of TEs in different genotypes revealed both genetic and epigenetic variation. Many of the specific TEs that are activated in stress in one inbred are not present in the other inbred, explaining the lack of activation. Among the elements that are shared in both genomes but only expressed in one genotype, we found thatmore »many exhibit differences in DNA methylation such that the genotype without expression is fully methylated. This study provides insights into the regulation of expression of TEs in normal and stress conditions and highlights the role of chromatin variation between elements in a family or between genotypes for contributing to expression variation. The highly repetitive nature of many TEs complicates the analysis of their expression. Although most TEs are not expressed, some exhibits expression in certain tissues or conditions. We monitored the expression of both TE families (using unique and multi-mapping reads) and specific elements (using uniquely mapping reads) in leaf tissue of three maize (Zea mays) inbred lines subjected to heat or cold stress. While genome-wide activation of TEs did not occur, some TE families generated transcripts only in stress conditions with variation by genotype. To better understand the factors that drive expression of TEs, we focused on a subset of families in which we could monitor expression of individual elements. In most cases, stress-responsive activation of a TE family was attributed to a small number of elements in the family. The elements that contained small regions lacking DNA methylation regions showed enriched expression while fully methylated elements were rarely expressed in control or stress conditions. The cause of varied expression in the different genotypes was due to both genetic and epigenetic variation. Many specific TEs activated by stress in one inbred were not present in the other inbred. Among the elements shared in both genomes, full methylation inhibited expression in one of the genotypes. This study provides insights into the regulation of TE expression in normal and stress conditions and highlights the role of chromatin variation between elements in a family or between genotypes for contributing to expression.« less
  3. Andrews, B J (Ed.)
    Abstract Intact transposable elements (TEs) account for 65% of the maize genome and can impact gene function and regulation. Although TEs comprise the majority of the maize genome and affect important phenotypes, genome-wide patterns of TE polymorphisms in maize have only been studied in a handful of maize genotypes, due to the challenging nature of assessing highly repetitive sequences. We implemented a method to use short-read sequencing data from 509 diverse inbred lines to classify the presence/absence of 445,418 nonredundant TEs that were previously annotated in four genome assemblies including B73, Mo17, PH207, and W22. Different orders of TEs (i.e., LTRs, Helitrons, and TIRs) had different frequency distributions within the population. LTRs with lower LTR similarity were generally more frequent in the population than LTRs with higher LTR similarity, though high-frequency insertions with very high LTR similarity were observed. LTR similarity and frequency estimates of nested elements and the outer elements in which they insert revealed that most nesting events occurred very near the timing of the outer element insertion. TEs within genes were at higher frequency than those that were outside of genes and this is particularly true for those not inserted into introns. Many TE insertional polymorphisms observedmore »in this population were tagged by SNP markers. However, there were also 19.9% of the TE polymorphisms that were not well tagged by SNPs (R2 < 0.5) that potentially represent information that has not been well captured in previous SNP-based marker-trait association studies. This study provides a population scale genome-wide assessment of TE variation in maize and provides valuable insight on variation in TEs in maize and factors that contribute to this variation.« less
  4. Bomblies, K (Ed.)
    Abstract Transposable elements (TEs) have the potential to create regulatory variation both through the disruption of existing DNA regulatory elements and through the creation of novel DNA regulatory elements. In a species with a large genome, such as maize, many TEs interspersed with genes create opportunities for significant allelic variation due to TE presence/absence polymorphisms among individuals. We used information on putative regulatory elements in combination with knowledge about TE polymorphisms in maize to identify TE insertions that interrupt existing accessible chromatin regions (ACRs) in B73 as well as examples of polymorphic TEs that contain ACRs among four inbred lines of maize including B73, Mo17, W22, and PH207. The TE insertions in three other assembled maize genomes (Mo17, W22, or PH207) that interrupt ACRs that are present in the B73 genome can trigger changes to the chromatin, suggesting the potential for both genetic and epigenetic influences of these insertions. Nearly 20% of the ACRs located over 2 kb from the nearest gene are located within an annotated TE. These are regions of unmethylated DNA that show evidence for functional importance similar to ACRs that are not present within TEs. Using a large panel of maize genotypes, we tested if theremore »is an association between the presence of TE insertions that interrupt, or carry, an ACR and the expression of nearby genes. While most TE polymorphisms are not associated with expression for nearby genes, the TEs that carry ACRs exhibit enrichment for being associated with higher expression of nearby genes, suggesting that these TEs may contribute novel regulatory elements. These analyses highlight the potential for a subset of TEs to rewire transcriptional responses in eukaryotic genomes.« less