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Aphid feeding induces the relaxation of epigenetic control and the associated regulation of the defense response in Arabidopsis

By Maria Luz Annacondia, Dimitrije Markovic, Juan Luis Reig-Valiente, Vassilis Scaltsoyiannes, Corné M. J. Pieterse, Velemir Ninkovic, R. Keith Slotkin, German Martinez

Posted 25 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.24.916783 (published DOI: 10.1111/nph.17226)

Environmentally induced changes in the epigenome help individuals to quickly adapt to fluctuations in the conditions of their habitats. Here we explored those changes in Arabidopsis thaliana plants subjected to multiple biotic and abiotic stresses, and identified transposable element (TE) activation in plants infested with the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae. We performed a genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation, mRNA expression, mRNA degradation and small RNA accumulation. Our results demonstrate that aphid feeding induces loss of methylation of hundreds of loci, mainly TEs. This loss of methylation has the potential to regulate gene expression and we found evidence that it is involved in the control of key plant immunity genes. Accordingly, we find that mutant plants deficient in epigenetic silencing show increased resistance to M. persicae infestation. Collectively, our results show that changes in DNA methylation play a significant role in the regulation of the plant transcriptional response and induction of defense response against aphid feeding.

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