RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) is an epigenetic process whereby small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) guide cytosine methylation of homologous DNA sequences. RdDM requires two specialized RNA polymerases: Pol IV transcribes the siRNA precursor whereas Pol V generates scaffold RNAs that interact with siRNAs and attract the methylation machinery. Recent evidence also suggests the involvement of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) in recruiting Pol IV and Pol V to low copy, intergenic loci. We demonstrated previously that Pol V-mediated methylation at a transgene locus in Arabidopsis spreads downstream of the originally targeted region by means of Pol IV/RNA-DEPENDENT RNA POLYMERASE2 (RDR2)-dependent 24-nt secondary siRNAs. Here we show that these secondary siRNAs can not only induce methylation in cis but also in trans at an unlinked target site, provided this sequence is transcribed by Pol II to produce a non-coding RNA. The Pol II transcript appears to be important for amplification of siRNAs at the unlinked target site because its presence correlates not only with methylation but also with elevated levels of 24-nt siRNAs. Potential target sites that lack an overlapping Pol II transcript and remain unmethylated in the presence of trans-acting 24-nt siRNAs can nevertheless acquire methylation in the presence of 21–24-nt hairpin-derived siRNAs, suggesting that RdDM of non-transcribed target sequences requires multiple size classes of siRNA. Our findings demonstrate that Pol II transcripts are not always needed for RdDM at low copy loci but they may intensify RdDM by facilitating amplification of Pol IV-dependent siRNAs at the DNA target site.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 20, 2013
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