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Variation of DNA methylation and phenotypic traits following unilateral sexual polyploidization in Medicago

Aversano, Riccardo, Capomaccio, Stefano, Carputo, Domenico, Veronesi, Fabio, Rosellini, Daniele
Euphytica 2012 v.186 no.3 pp. 731-739
DNA methylation, Medicago sativa subsp. falcata, alfalfa, biodiversity, biomass, crops, diploidy, eggs, forage, genome, genotype, germ cells, hybridization, landscapes, leaves, ovules, parents, progeny, surface area, tetraploidy
Sexual hybridization is an important generator of biodiversity and a powerful breeding tool. Hybridization can also overcome ploidy barriers when it involves 2n gametes, as in the case of unilateral sexual polyploidization (USP) that has been utilized in several crops, among which alfalfa. This research was aimed at gaining insights into the effects of USP on genome methylation and on phenotypic traits in alfalfa, an important forage species. The Methylation-Sensitive Amplified Polymorphism technique was used to estimate the cytosine methylation changes occurring in a tetraploid (2n = 4x = 32) USP progeny from crosses between a diploid Medicago sativa subsp. falcata genotype that produces 2n eggs and a cultivated tetraploid Medicago sativa subsp. sativa variety. De novo methylation or demethylation in the USP progeny were observed for 13% of the detected genomic sites, indicating that methylation changes can be relevant. USP plants showed larger surface area of the leaf epidermis cells than both parents, but this did not result in larger leaf size or higher plant biomass. They displayed significant higher ovule sterility than the tetraploid parent, but normal fertility was observed in crosses with unrelated male testers. We conclude that hybridization and sexual polyploidization resulted in novel variation in terms of remodeling of the methylation landscape as well as changes in phenotypic traits in alfalfa.