Parental CG and CHG methylation variation is associated with allelic-specific expression in elite hybrid rice
Heterosis refers to the superior performance of the hybrid over the inbred parental lines. Besides genetic variation, epigenetic difference between the parental lines has been suggested to be involved in heterosis. However, precise nature and extent of parental epigenome difference and reprograming in hybrids governing heterotic gene expression remain unclear. In this work, we analyzed DNA methylomes and transcriptomes of the widely cultivated and genetically studied elite hybrid rice SY63, the reciprocal hybrid, and the parental varieties ZS97 and MH63, of which the high-quality reference genomic sequences are available. We show that the parental varieties display important variation in genic methylation at CG and CHG (H=A, C, or T) sequences. Compared with the parents the hybrids display dynamic methylation variation during development. However, many parental differentially methylated regions (DMR) at CG and CHG sites are maintained in the hybrid. Only a small fraction of the DMRs display non-additive DNA methylation variation which, however, shows no overall correlation with gene expression variation. By contrast, most of the allelic-specific expression (ASE) genes in the hybrid are associated with DNA methylation and the ASE negatively correlates with allelic-specific methylation (ASM) at CHG but positively at CG sites. The results reveal a specific DNA methylation reprogramming pattern in the hybrid rice and point to a role of parental CG and CHG methylation divergence in allelic specific expression that has been associated with phenotype variation and hybrid vigor in several plant species.
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