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RNA polymerase mapping in plants identifies enhancers enriched in causal variants

By Roberto Lozano, Gregory T. Booth, Bilan Yonis Omar, Bo Li, Edward S. Buckler, John T. Lis, Jean--Luc Jannink, Dunia Pino del Carpio

Posted 24 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/376640

Promoter-proximal pausing and divergent transcription at promoters and enhancers, which are prominent features in animals, have been reported to be absent in plants based on a study of Arabidopsis thaliana. Here, our PRO-Seq analysis in cassava (Manihot esculenta) identified peaks of transcriptionally-engaged RNA polymerase II (Pol2) at both 5' and 3' ends of genes, consistent with paused or slowly-moving Pol2, and divergent transcription at potential intragenic enhancers. A full genome search for bi-directional transcription using an algorithm for enhancer detection developed in mammals (dREG) identified many enhancer candidates. These sites show distinct patterns of methylation and nucleotide variation based on genomic evolutionary rate profiling characteristic of active enhancers. Maize GRO-Seq data showed RNA polymerase occupancy at promoters and enhancers consistent with cassava but not Arabidopsis. Furthermore, putative enhancers in maize identified by dREG significantly overlapped with sites previously identified on the basis of open chromatin, histone marks, and methylation. We show that SNPs within these divergently transcribed intergenic regions predict significantly more variation in fitness and root composition than SNPs in chromosomal segments randomly ascertained from the same intergenic distribution, suggesting a functional importance of these sites on cassava. The findings shed new light on plant transcription regulation and its impact on development and plasticity.

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