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H2A.X promotes endosperm-specific DNA methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana

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Frost, Jennifer M.; Lee, Jaehoon; Hsieh, Ping-Hung; Lin, Samuel J. H.; Min, Yunsook; Bauer, Matthew; Runkel, Anne M.; Cho, Hyung-Taeg; Hsieh, Tzung-Fu; Fischer, Robert L.; Choi, Yeonhee

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BioMed Central
BMC Plant Biology, Vol.23 No.1, p. 585
Background: H2A.X is an H2A variant histone in eukaryotes, unique for its ability to respond to DNA damage, initiating the DNA repair pathway. H2A.X replacement within the histone octamer is mediated by the FAcilitates Chromatin Transactions (FACT) complex, a key chromatin remodeler. FACT is required for DEMETER (DME)-mediated DNA demethylation at certain loci in Arabidopsis thaliana female gametophytes during reproduction. Here, we sought to investigate whether H2A.X is involved in DME- and FACT-mediated DNA demethylation during reproduction. Results: H2A.X is encoded by two genes in Arabidopsis genome, HTA3 and HTA5. We generated h2a.x double mutants, which displayed a normal growth profile, whereby flowering time, seed development, and root tip organization, S-phase progression and proliferation were all normal. However, h2a.x mutants were more sensitive to genotoxic stress, consistent with previous reports. H2A.X fused to Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) under the H2A.X promoter was highly expressed especially in newly developing Arabidopsis tissues, including in male and female gametophytes, where DME is also expressed. We examined DNA methylation in h2a.x developing seeds and seedlings using whole genome bisulfite sequencing, and found that CG DNA methylation is decreased genome-wide in h2a.x mutant endosperm. Hypomethylation was most striking in transposon bodies, and occurred on both parental alleles in the developing endosperm, but not the embryo or seedling. h2a.x-mediated hypomethylated sites overlapped DME targets, but also included other loci, predominately located in heterochromatic transposons and intergenic DNA. Conclusions: Our genome-wide methylation analyses suggest that H2A.X could function in preventing access of the DME demethylase to non-canonical sites. Overall, our data suggest that H2A.X is required to maintain DNA methylation homeostasis in the unique chromatin environment of the Arabidopsis endosperm.
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