In mammals and plants, parental genomic imprinting restricts the expression of specific loci to one parental allele. Imprinting in mammals relies on sex-dependent de novo deposition of DNA methylation during gametogenesis but a comparable mechanism was not shown in plants. Rather, paternal silencing by the maintenance DNA methyltransferase 1 (MET1) and maternal activation by the DNA demethylase DEMETER (DME) cause maternal expression. However, genome-wide studies suggested other DNA methylation-dependent imprinting mechanisms. Here, we show that de novo RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) regulates imprinting at specific loci expressed in endosperm. RdDM in somatic tissues is required to silence expression of the paternal allele. By contrast, the repression of RdDM in female gametes participates with or without DME requirement in the activation of the maternal allele. The contrasted activity of DNA methylation between male and female gametes appears sufficient to prime imprinted maternal expression. After fertilization, MET1 maintains differential expression between the parental alleles. RdDM depends on small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). The involvement of RdDM in imprinting supports the idea that sources of siRNAs such as transposons and de novo DNA methylation were recruited in a convergent manner in plants and mammals in the evolutionary process leading to selection of imprinted loci.
In flowering plants, double fertilization is normally accomplished by the first pollen tube, with the fertilized ovule subsequently inhibiting the attraction of a second pollen tube. However, the mechanism of second-pollen-tube avoidance remains unknown. We discovered that failure to fertilize either the egg cell or the central cell compromised second-pollen-tube avoidance in Arabidopsis thaliana. A similar disturbance was caused by disrupting the fertilization-independent seed (FIS) class polycomb-repressive complex 2 (FIS-PRC2), a central cell- and endosperm-specific chromatin-modifying complex for gene silencing. Therefore, the two female gametes have evolved their own signaling pathways. Intriguingly, second-pollen-tube attraction induced by half-successful fertilization allowed the ovules to complete double fertilization, producing a genetically distinct embryo and endosperm. We thus propose that each female gamete independently determines second-pollen-tube avoidance to maximize reproductive fitness in flowering plants.
During sexual reproduction in higher angiosperms, the pollen tubes are directed to the ovules in the pistil to deliver sperm cells. This pollen tube attraction is highly species specific, and a group of small secreted proteins, TfCRPs, are necessary for this process in Torenia fournieri.
In Arabidopsis, DEMETER (DME) DNA demethylase contributes to reprogramming of the epigenetic state of the genome in the central cell. However, other aspects of the active DNA demethylation processes remain elusive. Here we show that Arabidopsis SSRP1, known as an HMG domain-containing component of FACT histone chaperone, is required for DNA demethylation and for activation and repression of many parentally imprinted genes in the central cell. Although loss of DNA methylation releases silencing of the imprinted FWA-GFP, double ssrp1-3;met1-3 mutants surprisingly showed limited activation of maternal FWA-GFP in the central cell, and only became fully active after several nuclear divisions in the endosperm. This behavior was in contrast to the dme-1;met1 double mutant in which hypomethylation of FWA-GFP by met1 suppressed the DNA demethylation defect of dme-1. We propose that active DNA demethylation by DME requires SSRP1 function through a distinctly different process from direct DNA methylation control.
For more than 140 years, pollen tube guidance in flowering plants has been thought to be mediated by chemoattractants derived from target ovules. However, there has been no convincing evidence of any particular molecule being the true attractant that actually controls the navigation of pollen tubes towards ovules. Emerging data indicate that two synergid cells on the side of the egg cell emit a diffusible, species-specific signal to attract the pollen tube at the last step of pollen tube guidance. Here we report that secreted, cysteine-rich polypeptides (CRPs) in a subgroup of defensin-like proteins are attractants derived from the synergid cells. We isolated synergid cells of Torenia fournieri, a unique plant with a protruding embryo sac, to identify transcripts encoding secreted proteins as candidate molecules for the chemoattractant(s). We found two CRPs, abundantly and predominantly expressed in the synergid cell, which are secreted to the surface of the egg apparatus. Moreover, they showed activity in vitro to attract competent pollen tubes of their own species and were named as LUREs. Injection of morpholino antisense oligomers against the LUREs impaired pollen tube attraction, supporting the finding that LUREs are the attractants derived from the synergid cells of T. fournieri.
DNA methylation maintains genome stability and regulates gene expression . In mammals, DNA methylation is reprogrammed in the germline from one generation to the next . In plants, it was considered that patterns of DNA methylation are stably maintained through sexual reproduction [3-6]. However, a recent report showed discrete variations of DNA methylation profiles from mother to daughter plants . The mechanisms that explain these variations have remained unknown. Here, we report that maintenance DNA methyltransferases are barely expressed during Arabidopsis female gametogenesis. In contrast, after fertilization both maintenance and de novo DNA methyltransferases are expressed strongly in the embryo. Embryogenesis is marked by increased de novo DNA methylation, reaching levels that are further maintained in the adult plant. The accumulation of these epigenetic marks after fertilization silences a methylation-sensitive fluorescent reporter. De novo DNA methylation in the embryo provides a mechanism that could account for the gradual remethylation of experimentally demethylated genomes [8, 9]. In conclusion, we uncover that DNA methylation activity fluctuates during sexual reproduction. This cycle likely explains variations of genome-wide patterns of DNA methylation across generations in Arabidopsis [7, 10] and enables a limited degree of reprogramming of the epigenome.
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