Rice cytosine DNA methyltransferases - gene expression profiling during reproductive development and abiotic stress


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Abstract

DNA methylation affects important developmental processes in both plants and animals. The process of methylation of cytosines at C-5 is catalysed by DNA methyltransferases (MTases), which are highly conserved, both structurally and functionally, in eukaryotes. In this study, we identified and characterized cytosine DNA MTase genes that are activated with the onset of reproductive development in rice. The rice genome (Oryza sativa L. subsp. japonica) encodes a total of 10 genes that contain the highly conserved MTase catalytic domain. These genes have been categorized into subfamilies on the basis of phylogenetic relationships. A microarray-based gene expression profile of all 10 MTases during 22 stages/tissues that included 14 stages of reproductive development and five vegetative tissues together with three stresses, cold, salt and dehydration stress, revealed specific windows of MTase activity during panicle and seed development. The expression of six methylases was specifically/preferentially upregulated with the initiation of floral organs. Significantly, one of the MTases was also activated in young seedlings in response to cold and salt stress. The molecular studies presented here suggest a greater role for these proteins and the epigenetic process in affecting genome activity during reproductive development and stress than was previously anticipated.

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