Compromised telomere maintenance in hypomethylated Arabidopsis thaliana plants
Telomeres, nucleoprotein structures at the ends of linear eukaryotic chromosomes, are important for the maintenance of genomic stability. Telomeres were considered as typical heterochromatic regions, but in light of recent results, this view should be reconsidered. Asymmetrically located cytosines in plant telomeric DNA repeats may be substrates for a DNA methyltransferase enzyme and indeed, it was shown that these repeats are methylated. Here, we analyse the methylation of telomeric cytosines and the length of telomeres in Arabidopsis thaliana methylation mutants (met 1-3 and ddm 1-8), and in their wild-type siblings that were germinated in the presence of hypomethylation drugs. Our results show that cytosine methylation in telomeric repeats depends on the activity of MET1 and DDM1 enzymes. Significantly shortened telomeres occur in later generations of methylation mutants as well as in plants germinated in the presence of hypomethylation drugs, and this phenotype is stably transmitted to the next plant generation. A possible role of compromised in vivo telomerase action in the observed telomere shortening is hypothesized based on telomere analysis of hypomethylated telomerase knockout plants. Results are discussed in connection with previous data in this field obtained using different model systems.