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1.  FIE, a nuclear PRC2 protein, forms cytoplasmic complexes in Arabidopsis thaliana 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2016;67(21):6111-6123.
FIE, a WD-40 subunit of the Arabidopsis PRC2 complexes known to take part in H3K27 methylation of nuclear chromatin, is also localized in cytoplasmic complexes.
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are evolutionarily conserved chromatin modifiers that regulate developmental pathways in plants. PcGs form nuclear multi-subunit Polycomb Repressive Complexes (PRCs). The PRC2 complex mediates gene repression via methylation of lysine 27 on histone H3, which consequently leads to chromatin condensation. In Arabidopsis thaliana, several PRC2 complexes with different compositions were identified, each controlling a particular developmental program.
The core subunit FIE is crucial for PRC2 function throughout the plant life cycle, yet accurate information on its spatial and temporal localization was absent. This study focused on identifying FIE accumulation patterns, using microscopy and biochemical approaches. Analysing endogenous FIE and transgenic gFIE–green fluorescent protein fusion protein (gFIE-GFP) showed that FIE accumulates in the nuclei of every cell type examined. Interestingly, gFIE-GFP, as well as the endogenous FIE, also localized to the cytoplasm in all examined tissues. In both vegetative and reproductive organs, FIE formed cytoplasmic high-molecular-mass complexes, in parallel to the nuclear PRC2 complexes. Moreover, size-exclusion chromatography and bimolecular fluorescence complementation assays indicated that in inflorescences FIE formed a cytoplasmic complex with MEA, a PRC2 histone methyltransferase subunit. In contrast, CLF and SWN histone methyltransferases were strictly nuclear. Presence of PRC2 subunits in cytoplasmic complexes has not been previously described in plants. Our findings are in agreement with accumulating evidence demonstrating cytoplasmic localization and function of PcGs in metazoa. The cytosolic accumulation of PRC2 components in plants supports the model that PcGs have alternative non-nuclear functions that go beyond chromatin methylation.
PMCID: PMC5100023  PMID: 27811080
Cytoplasm; FIE; MEA; PcG; Polycomb complex; PRC2.
2.  Comparative Methylome Analyses Identify Epigenetic Regulatory Loci of Human Brain Evolution 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2016;33(11):2947-2959.
How do epigenetic modifications change across species and how do these modifications affect evolution? These are fundamental questions at the forefront of our evolutionary epigenomic understanding. Our previous work investigated human and chimpanzee brain methylomes, but it was limited by the lack of outgroup data which is critical for comparative (epi)genomic studies. Here, we compared whole genome DNA methylation maps from brains of humans, chimpanzees and also rhesus macaques (outgroup) to elucidate DNA methylation changes during human brain evolution. Moreover, we validated that our approach is highly robust by further examining 38 human-specific DMRs using targeted deep genomic and bisulfite sequencing in an independent panel of 37 individuals from five primate species. Our unbiased genome-scan identified human brain differentially methylated regions (DMRs), irrespective of their associations with annotated genes. Remarkably, over half of the newly identified DMRs locate in intergenic regions or gene bodies. Nevertheless, their regulatory potential is on par with those of promoter DMRs. An intriguing observation is that DMRs are enriched in active chromatin loops, suggesting human-specific evolutionary remodeling at a higher-order chromatin structure. These findings indicate that there is substantial reprogramming of epigenomic landscapes during human brain evolution involving noncoding regions.
PMCID: PMC5062329  PMID: 27563052
DNA methylation; human brain evolution; transcriptional divergence; differentially methylated regions; epigenomes
3.  Control of Paternally Expressed Imprinted UPWARD CURLY LEAF1, a Gene Encoding an F-Box Protein That Regulates CURLY LEAF Polycomb Protein, in the Arabidopsis Endosperm 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0117431.
Genomic imprinting, an epigenetic process in mammals and flowering plants, refers to the differential expression of alleles of the same genes in a parent-of-origin-specific manner. In Arabidopsis, imprinting occurs primarily in the endosperm, which nourishes the developing embryo. Recent high-throughput sequencing analyses revealed that more than 200 loci are imprinted in Arabidopsis; however, only a few of these imprinted genes and their imprinting mechanisms have been examined in detail. Whereas most imprinted loci characterized to date are maternally expressed imprinted genes (MEGs), PHERES1 (PHE1) and ADMETOS (ADM) are paternally expressed imprinted genes (PEGs). Here, we report that UPWARD CURLY LEAF1 (UCL1), a gene encoding an E3 ligase that degrades the CURLY LEAF (CLF) polycomb protein, is a PEG. After fertilization, paternally inherited UCL1 is expressed in the endosperm, but not in the embryo. The expression pattern of a β-glucuronidase (GUS) reporter gene driven by the UCL1 promoter suggests that the imprinting control region (ICR) of UCL1 is adjacent to a transposable element in the UCL1 5′-upstream region. Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) silences the maternal UCL1 allele in the central cell prior to fertilization and in the endosperm after fertilization. The UCL1 imprinting pattern was not affected in paternal PRC2 mutants. We found unexpectedly that the maternal UCL1 allele is reactivated in the endosperm of Arabidopsis lines with mutations in cytosine DNA METHYLTRANSFERASE 1 (MET1) or the DNA glycosylase DEMETER (DME), which antagonistically regulate CpG methylation of DNA. By contrast, maternal UCL1 silencing was not altered in mutants with defects in non-CpG methylation. Thus, silencing of the maternal UCL1 allele is regulated by both MET1 and DME as well as by PRC2, suggesting that divergent mechanisms for the regulation of PEGs evolved in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC4331533  PMID: 25689861
4.  DEMETER DNA Glycosylase Establishes MEDEA Polycomb Gene Self-Imprinting by Allele-Specific Demethylation 
Cell  2006;124(3):495-506.
MEDEA (MEA) is an Arabidopsis Polycomb group gene that is imprinted in the endosperm. The maternal allele is expressed and the paternal allele is silent. MEA is controlled by DEMETER (DME), a DNA glycosylase required to activate MEA expression, and METHYLTRANSFERASE I (MET1), which maintains CG methylation at the MEA locus. Here we show that DME is responsible for endosperm maternal-allele-specific hypomethylation at the MEA gene. DME can excise 5-methylcytosine in vitro and when expressed in E. coli. Abasic sites opposite 5-methylcytosine inhibit DME activity and might prevent DME from generating double-stranded DNA breaks. Unexpectedly, paternal-allele silencing is not controlled by DNA methylation. Rather, Polycomb group proteins that are expressed from the maternal genome, including MEA, control paternal MEA silencing. Thus, DME establishes MEA imprinting by removing 5-methylcytosine to activate the maternal allele. MEA imprinting is subsequently maintained in the endosperm by maternal MEA silencing the paternal allele.
PMCID: PMC4106368  PMID: 16469697
5.  Genome-Wide Demethylation of Arabidopsis Endosperm 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2009;324(5933):1451-1454.
Parent-of-origin-specific (imprinted) gene expression is regulated in Arabidopsis thaliana endosperm by cytosine demethylation of the maternal genome mediated by the DNA glycosylase DEMETER, but the extent of the methylation changes is not known. Here, we show that virtually the entire endosperm genome is demethylated, coupled with extensive local non-CG hypermethylation of small interfering RNA–targeted sequences. Mutation of DEMETER partially restores endosperm CG methylation to levels found in other tissues, indicating that CG demethylation is specific to maternal sequences. Endosperm demethylation is accompanied by CHH hypermethylation of embryo transposable elements. Our findings demonstrate extensive reconfiguration of the endosperm methylation landscape that likely reinforces transposon silencing in the embryo.
PMCID: PMC4044190  PMID: 19520962
6.  Active DNA Demethylation in Plant Companion Cells Reinforces Transposon Methylation in Gametes 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2012;337(6100):1360-1364.
The Arabidopsis thaliana central cell, the companion cell of the egg, undergoes DNA demethylation before fertilization, but the targeting preferences, mechanism, and biological significance of this process remain unclear. Here, we show that active DNA demethylation mediated by the DEMETER DNA glycosylase accounts for all of the demethylation in the central cell and preferentially targets small, AT-rich, and nucleosome-depleted euchromatic transposable elements. The vegetative cell, the companion cell of sperm, also undergoes DEMETER-dependent demethylation of similar sequences, and lack of DEMETER in vegetative cells causes reduced small RNA–directed DNA methylation of transposons in sperm. Our results demonstrate that demethylation in companion cells reinforces transposon methylation in plant gametes and likely contributes to stable silencing of transposable elements across generations.
PMCID: PMC4034762  PMID: 22984074
7.  MethylCoder: software pipeline for bisulfite-treated sequences 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(17):2435-2436.
Motivation: MethylCoder is a software program that generates per-base methylation data given a set of bisulfite-treated reads. It provides the option to use either of two existing short-read aligners, each with different strengths. It accounts for soft-masked alignments and overlapping paired-end reads. MethylCoder outputs data in text and binary formats in addition to the final alignment in SAM format, so that common high-throughput sequencing tools can be used on the resulting output. It is more flexible than existing software and competitive in terms of speed and memory use.
Availability: MethylCoder requires only a python interpreter and a C compiler to run. Extensive documentation and the full source code are available under the MIT license at:
PMCID: PMC3157921  PMID: 21724594
8.  Endosperm Gene Imprinting and Seed Development 
Imprinting occurs in the endosperm of flowering plants. Endosperm, produced by fertilization of the central cell in the female gametophyte, is essential for embryo and seed development. Several imprinted genes play an important role in endosperm development. The mechanism of gene imprinting involves DNA methylation and histone modification. DNA methylation is actively removed at the imprinted alleles to be activated. Histone methylation mediated by the Polycomb group complex provides another layer of epigenetic regulation at the silenced alleles. Endosperm gene imprinting can be uncoupled from seed development when fertilization of the central cell is prevented. Imprinting may be a mechanism to ensure fertilization of the central cell thereby preventing parthenogenic development of the endosperm.
PMCID: PMC2180190  PMID: 17962010
9.  Gene expression in the developing mouse retina by EST sequencing and microarray analysis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(24):4983-4993.
Retinal development occurs in mice between embryonic day E11.5 and post-natal day P8 as uncommitted neuroblasts assume retinal cell fates. The genetic pathways regulating retinal development are being identified but little is understood about the global networks that link these pathways together or the complexity of the expressed gene set required to form the retina. At E14.5, the retina contains mostly uncommitted neuroblasts and newly differentiated neurons. Here we report a sequence analysis of an E14.5 retinal cDNA library. To date, we have archived 15 268 ESTs and have annotated 9035, which represent 5288 genes. The fraction of singly occurring ESTs as a function of total EST accrual suggests that the total number of expressed genes in the library could approach 27 000. The 9035 ESTs were categorized by their known or putative functions. Representation of the genes involved in eye development was significantly higher in the retinal clone set compared with the NIA mouse 15K cDNA clone set. Screening with a microarray containing 864 cDNA clones using wild-type and brn-3b (–/–) retinal cDNA probes revealed a potential regulatory linkage between the transcription factor Brn-3b and expression of GAP-43, a protein associated with axon growth. The retinal EST database will be a valuable platform for gene expression profiling and a new source for gene discovery.
PMCID: PMC97568  PMID: 11812828

Results 1-9 (9)