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Transgenerational Epigenetic Instability Is a Source of Novel Methylation Variants

Science  21 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6054, pp. 369-373
DOI: 10.1126/science.1212959

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Abstract

Epigenetic information, which may affect an organism’s phenotype, can be stored and stably inherited in the form of cytosine DNA methylation. Changes in DNA methylation can produce meiotically stable epialleles that affect transcription and morphology, but the rates of spontaneous gain or loss of DNA methylation are unknown. We examined spontaneously occurring variation in DNA methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana plants propagated by single-seed descent for 30 generations. We identified 114,287 CG single methylation polymorphisms and 2485 CG differentially methylated regions (DMRs), both of which show patterns of divergence compared with the ancestral state. Thus, transgenerational epigenetic variation in DNA methylation may generate new allelic states that alter transcription, providing a mechanism for phenotypic diversity in the absence of genetic mutation.

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