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Nurse cell-derived small RNAs define paternal epigenetic inheritance in Arabidopsis

By Jincheng Long, James Walker, Wenjing She, Billy Aldridge, Hongbo Gao, Samuel Deans, Xiaoqi Feng

Posted 26 Jan 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.25.428150

The plant male germline undergoes DNA methylation reprogramming, which methylates genes de novo and thereby alters gene expression and facilitates meiosis. Why reprogramming is limited to the germline and how specific genes are chosen is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that genic methylation in the male germline, from meiocytes to sperm, is established by germline-specific siRNAs transcribed from transposons with imperfect sequence homology. These siRNAs are synthesized by meiocyte nurse cells (tapetum) via activity of the tapetum-specific chromatin remodeler CLASSY3. Remarkably, tapetal siRNAs govern germline methylation throughout the genome, including the inherited methylation patterns in sperm. Finally, we demonstrate that these nurse cell-derived siRNAs (niRNAs) silence germline transposons, thereby safeguarding genome integrity. Our results reveal that tapetal niRNAs are sufficient to reconstitute germline methylation patterns and drive extensive, functional methylation reprogramming analogous to piRNA-mediated reprogramming in animal germlines.

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