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PLOS ONE  2013 

Epigenetic Differentiation Persists after Male Gametogenesis in Natural Populations of the Perennial Herb Helleborus foetidus (Ranunculaceae)

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070730

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Abstract:

Despite the importance of assessing the stability of epigenetic variation in non-model organisms living in real-world scenarios, no studies have been conducted on the transgenerational persistence of epigenetic structure in wild plant populations. This gap in knowledge is hindering progress in the interpretation of natural epigenetic variation. By applying the methylation-sensitive amplified fragment length polymorphism (MSAP) technique to paired plant-pollen (i.e., sporophyte-male gametophyte) DNA samples, and then comparing methylation patterns and epigenetic population differentiation in sporophytes and their descendant gametophytes, we investigated transgenerational constancy of epigenetic structure in three populations of the perennial herb Helleborus foetidus (Ranunculaceae). Single-locus and multilocus analyses revealed extensive epigenetic differentiation between sporophyte populations. Locus-by-locus comparisons of methylation status in individual sporophytes and descendant gametophytes showed that ~75% of epigenetic markers persisted unchanged through gametogenesis. In spite of some epigenetic reorganization taking place during gametogenesis, multilocus epigenetic differentiation between sporophyte populations was preserved in the subsequent gametophyte stage. In addition to illustrating the efficacy of applying the MSAP technique to paired plant-pollen DNA samples to investigate epigenetic gametic inheritance in wild plants, this paper suggests that epigenetic differentiation between adult plant populations of H. foetidus is likely to persist across generations.

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