DNA methylation has been often proposed to operate as a genome defence system against parasitic mobile elements. To test this possibility, the methylation status of a class of plant mobile elements, the S1Bn SINEs, was analysed in detail using the bisulfite modification method. We observed that S1Bn SINE retroposons are methylated at symmetrical and asymmetrical positions. Methylated cytosines are not limited to transcriptionally important regions but are well distributed along the sequence. S1Bn SINE retroposons are two-fold more methylated than the average methylation level of the Brassica napus nuclear DNA. By in situ hybridization, we showed that this high level of methylation does not result from the association of S1Bn elements to genomic regions known to be highly methylated suggesting that S1Bn elements were specifically methylated. A detailed analysis of the methylation context showed that S1Bn cytosines in symmetrical CpG and CpNpG sites are methylated at a level of 87% and 44% respectively. We observed that 5.3% of S1Bn cytosines in non- symmetrical positions were also methylated. Of this asymmetrical methylation, 57% occurred at a precise motif (Cp(A/T)pA) that only represented 12% of the asymmetrical sites in S1Bn sequences suggesting that it represents a preferred asymmetrical methylation site. This motif is methylated in S1Bnelements at only half the level observed for the Cp(A/T)pG sites. We show that non-S1Bn CpTpA sites can also be methylated in DNA from B. napus and from other plant species.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 29, 2004
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