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Epigenetic modification of ESP, encoding a putative long noncoding RNA, affects panicle architecture in rice

Luan, Xin, Liu, Shuchun, Ke, Shanwen, Dai, Hang, Xie, Xin-Ming, Hsieh, Tzung-Fu, Zhang, Xiang-Qian
Rice 2019 v.12 no.1 pp. 20
bisulfites, epigenetics, eukaryotic cells, gain-of-function mutation, genes, inheritance (genetics), methylation, non-coding RNA, nucleotide sequences, panicles, phenotype, phenotypic variation, plant breeding, rice, sequence diversity, transcription (genetics)
Epigenetic variants broaden phenotypic diversity in eukaryotes. Epialleles may also provide a new genetic source for crop breeding, but very few epialleles related to agricultural traits have been identified in rice. Here, we identified Epi-sp, a gain-of-function epiallele of the rice ESP (Epigenetic Short Panicle, Os01g0356951), which encodes a putative long noncoding RNA. The Epi-sp plants show a dense and short panicle phenotype, an agronomically important phenotypes that is inherited in a semidominant manner. We did not find any nucleotide sequence variation in ESP. Instead, we found hypomethylation in the transcriptional termination region (TTR) of ESP gene, which caused ectopic expression of ESP in Epi-sp plants. Bisulfite analysis revealed that the methylation status of 26 CGs and 13 CHGs within a continuous 313-bp region is essential for the regulation of ESP expression. Thus, our work identified a unique rice epiallele and demonstrated that epigenetic modification of ESP is associated with the regulation of panicle architecture in rice.