Biotech Updates

Scientists Map Arabidopsis Epigenome

April 18, 2008

Recent discoveries have shown that there is more to genetics than the sequences of the nucleotide bases that make up genes. For instance, addition of a methyl group (-CH3) to the DNA backbone without alteration of the base sequence can change how genes interact with the cell’s protein-making machineries. Methylation, usually of cytosine bases in the nuclear DNA, is involved in numerous processes like tumorigenesis and embryo development in animals and silencing of jumping genes and gene expression in plants. DNA methylation pattern in a cell is perpetuated and established by DNA methyltransferase enzymes.

A team of scientists from the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences in California have mapped the precise sites of DNA methylation throughout the genome of Arabidopsis. The study paints a detailed picture of the model plant’s epigenome, the layer of genetic control beyond the regulation inherent in gene sequences. The researchers constructed integrated epigenome maps for wild type Arabidopsis as well as lines with defective DNA methyltransferases. Studying the epigenome in detail will provide scientists with better understanding of plant productivity and stress resistance, and might ultimately lead to development of improved crop varieties.

Read the summary of the paper published by the journal Cell at For more information visit