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1.  Convergent Transcription Induces Dynamic DNA Methylation at disiRNA Loci 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(9):e1003761.
Cytosine methylation of DNA is an important epigenetic gene silencing mechanism in plants, fungi, and animals. In the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, nearly all known DNA methylations occur in transposon relics and repetitive sequences, and DNA methylation does not depend on the canonical RNAi pathway. disiRNAs are Dicer-independent small non-coding RNAs that arise from gene-rich part of the Neurospora genome. Here we describe a new type of DNA methylation that is associated with the disiRNA loci. Unlike the known DNA methylation in Neurospora, disiRNA loci DNA methylation (DLDM) is highly dynamic and is regulated by an on/off mechanism. Some disiRNA production appears to rely on pol II directed transcription. Importantly, DLDM is triggered by convergent transcription and enriched in promoter regions. Together, our results establish a new mechanism that triggers DNA methylation.
Author Summary
DNA methylation in eukayrotes refers to the modification of cytidines at 5th position with methyl group (5mC). Though absent in some species, DNA methylation is conserved across fungi, plants and animals and plays a critical role in X chromosome inactivation, genomic imprinting, transposon silencing etc. In addition, DNA methylation also occurs at the promoter sequence to regulate gene expression. Filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa has a well-known mechanism of DNA methylation for genomic defense. During sexual stage repetitive sequences (e.g. transposons) are recognized and point mutations are introduced. During vegetative stage these mutations serve as signals for establishing static DNA methylation to silence all copies of the sequences. In this study, we report a new type of DNA methylation in Neurospora. It is tightly linked to a type of non-coding small RNA termed dicer-independent siRNA (disiRNA) and therefore was termed disiRNA loci DNA methylation (DLDM). DLDM is dynamic regulated and shows an on/off pattern, i.e. most alleles contain no 5mC but some are densely methylated. Interestingly, DLDM can be triggered by convergent transcription and is accumulated at promoter regions. In summary, our findings demonstrate a new type of dynamic DNA methylation.
PMCID: PMC3764098  PMID: 24039604
2.  Mitochondrial Genes of Dinoflagellates Are Transcribed by a Nuclear-Encoded Single-Subunit RNA Polymerase 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65387.
Dinoflagellates are a large group of algae that contribute significantly to marine productivity and are essential photosynthetic symbionts of corals. Although these algae have fully-functioning mitochondria and chloroplasts, both their organelle genomes have been highly reduced and the genes fragmented and rearranged, with many aberrant transcripts. However, nothing is known about their RNA polymerases. We cloned and sequenced the gene for the nuclear-encoded mitochondrial polymerase (RpoTm) of the dinoflagellate Heterocapsa triquetra and showed that the protein presequence targeted a GFP construct into yeast mitochondria. The gene belongs to a small gene family, which includes a variety of 3′-truncated copies that may have originated by retroposition. The catalytic C-terminal domain of the protein shares nine conserved sequence blocks with other single-subunit polymerases and is predicted to have the same fold as the human enzyme. However, the N-terminal (promoter binding/transcription initiation) domain is not well-conserved. In conjunction with the degenerate nature of the mitochondrial genome, this suggests a requirement for novel accessory factors to ensure the accurate production of functional mRNAs.
PMCID: PMC3686807  PMID: 23840326
3.  RNA Interference in Fungi: Pathways, Functions, and Applications ▿ 
Eukaryotic Cell  2011;10(9):1148-1155.
Small RNA molecules of about 20 to 30 nucleotides function in gene regulation and genomic defense via conserved eukaryotic RNA interference (RNAi)-related pathways. The RNAi machinery consists of three core components: Dicer, Argonaute, and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. In fungi, the RNAi-related pathways have three major functions: genomic defense, heterochromatin formation, and gene regulation. Studies of Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Neurospora, and other fungi have uncovered surprisingly diverse small RNA biogenesis pathways, suggesting that fungi utilize RNAi-related pathways in various cellular processes to adapt to different environmental conditions. These studies also provided important insights into how RNAi functions in eukaryotic systems in general. In this review, we will discuss our current understanding of the fungal RNAi-related pathways and their functions, with a focus on filamentous fungi. We will also discuss how RNAi can be used as a tool in fungal research.
PMCID: PMC3187057  PMID: 21724934

Results 1-3 (3)