siRNAs regulate DNA methylation and interfere with gene and lncRNA expression in the heterozygous polyploid switchgrass
Frazier, Taylor P
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Abstract Background Understanding the DNA methylome and its relationship with non-coding RNAs, including microRNAs (miRNAs) and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), is essential for elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying key biological processes in plants. Few studies have examined the functional roles of the DNA methylome in grass species with highly heterozygous polyploid genomes. Results We performed genome-wide DNA methylation profiling in the tetraploid switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) cultivar ‘Alamo’ using bisulfite sequencing. Single-base-resolution methylation patterns were observed in switchgrass leaf and root tissues, which allowed for characterization of the relationship between DNA methylation and mRNA, miRNA, and lncRNA populations. The results of this study revealed that siRNAs positively regulate DNA methylation of the mCHH sites surrounding genes, and that DNA methylation interferes with gene and lncRNA expression in switchgrass. Ninety-six genes covered by differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were annotated by GO analysis as being involved in stimulus-related processes. Functionally, 82% (79/96) of these genes were found to be hypomethylated in switchgrass root tissue. Sequencing analysis of lncRNAs identified two lncRNAs that are potential precursors of miRNAs, which are predicted to target genes that function in cellulose biosynthesis, stress regulation, and stem and root development. Conclusions This study characterized the DNA methylome in switchgrass and elucidated its relevance to gene and non-coding RNAs. These results provide valuable genomic resources and references that will aid further epigenetic research in this important biofuel crop.