DNA methylation variation in Arabidopsis has a genetic basis and shows evidence of local adaptation

DNA methylation variation in Arabidopsis has a genetic basis and shows evidence of local adaptation

Manu J. Dubin, Pei Zhang, Dazhe Meng, Marie-Stanislas Remigereau, Edward J. Osborne, Francesco Paolo Casale, Phillip Drewe, André Kahles, Bjarni Vilhjálmsson, Joanna Jagoda, Selen Irez, Viktor Voronin, Qiang Song, Quan Long, Gunnar Rätsch, Oliver Stegle, Richard M. Clark, Magnus Nordborg
(Submitted on 21 Oct 2014)

Epigenome modulation in response to the environment potentially provides a mechanism for organisms to adapt, both within and between generations. However, neither the extent to which this occurs, nor the molecular mechanisms involved are known. Here we investigate DNA methylation variation in Swedish Arabidopsis thaliana accessions grown at two different temperatures. Environmental effects on DNA methylation were limited to transposons, where CHH methylation was found to increase with temperature. Genome-wide association mapping revealed that the extensive CHH methylation variation was strongly associated with genetic variants in both cis and trans, including a major trans-association close to the DNA methyltransferase CMT2. Unlike CHH methylation, CpG gene body methylation (GBM) on the coding region of genes was not affected by growth temperature, but was instead strongly correlated with the latitude of origin. Accessions from colder regions had higher levels of GBM for a significant fraction of the genome, and this was correlated with elevated transcription levels for the genes affected. Genome-wide association mapping revealed that this effect was largely due to trans-acting loci, a significant fraction of which showed evidence of local adaptation. These findings constitute the first direct link between DNA methylation and adaptation to the environment, and provide a basis for further dissecting how environmentally driven and genetically determined epigenetic variation interact and influence organismal fitness.

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