Segregation of an MSH1 RNAi transgene produces heritable non-genetic memory in association with methylome reprogramming

Xiaodong Yang, Robersy Sanchez, Hardik Kundariya, Tom Maher, Isaac Dopp, Rosemary Schwegel, Kamaldeep Virdi, Michael J. Axtell, Sally A. Mackenzie

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24 Scopus citations


MSH1 is a plant-specific protein. RNAi suppression of MSH1 results in phenotype variability for developmental and stress response pathways. Segregation of the RNAi transgene produces non-genetic msh1 ‘memory’ with multi-generational inheritance. First-generation memory versus non-memory comparison, and six-generation inheritance studies, identifies gene-associated, heritable methylation repatterning. Genome-wide methylome analysis integrated with RNAseq and network-based enrichment studies identifies altered circadian clock networks, and phytohormone and stress response pathways that intersect with circadian control. A total of 373 differentially methylated loci comprising these networks are sufficient to discriminate memory from nonmemory full sibs. Methylation inhibitor 5-azacytidine diminishes the differences between memory and wild type for growth, gene expression and methylation patterning. The msh1 reprogramming is dependent on functional HISTONE DEACETYLASE 6 and methyltransferase MET1, and transition to memory requires the RNA-directed DNA methylation pathway. This system of phenotypic plasticity may serve as a potent model for defining accelerated plant adaptation during environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2214
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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