Sex chromatin and nucleolar analyses in Rumex acetosa L.
Rumex acetosa (sorrel) is a dioecious plant with a XX/XY1Y2 sex chromosome system. Both the Y chromosomes are nearly entirely heterochromatic and it has been hypothesised that they can persist as chromocenters in male interphase nuclei. Using specific antibodies against 5-methylcytosine and histone H4 acetylated at terminal lysine 5, global levels of DNA methylation and histone acetylation were studied on the sex chromosomes and autosomes of both sexes. The heterochromatic Y chromosomes did not display a higher methylation level compared to the autosomes. The only prominent hypermethylation signals were found at two nucleolar organising regions located on the autosome pair V, as confirmed by in situ hybridisation with 25S rDNA probe and staining. Immunoanalysis of DNA methylation on female and male interphase nuclei neither revealed any sex-specific differences. Two active (silver-positive) nucleoli and two likely inactive nucleolar organising regions (displaying prominent methylation signals) were found in both sexes. In a fraction of nuclei isolated from leaf cells, two peripheral bodies strongly positive for 4 ' ,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole were observed only in males, never in females. These helerochromatin regions were depleted in histone H4 acetylation at terminal lysine 5 and corresponded, according to in situ hybridisation with a Y-chromosome-specific repetitive probe, to the two Y chromosomes. We conclude that the peripheral condensed bodies observed exclusively in male nuclei represent the constitutive heterochromatin of the Y chromosomes which is characterised by a substantial histone H4 underacetylation.