Faithful inheritance of cytosine methylation patterns in repeated sequences of the allotetraploid tobacco correlates with the expression of DNA methyltransferase gene families from both parental genomes
The widespread occurrence of epigenetic alterations in allopolyploid species deserves scrutiny that DNA methylation systems may be perturbed by interspecies hybridization and polyploidization. Here we studied the genes involved in DNA methylation in Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) allotetraploid containing S and T genomes inherited from Nicotiana sylvestris and Nicotiana tomentosiformis progenitors. To determine the inheritance of DNA methyltransferase genes and their expression patterns we examined three major DNA methyltransferase families (MET1, CMT3 and DRM) from tobacco and the progenitor species. Using Southern blot hybridization and PCR-based methods (genomic CAPS), we found that the parental loci of these gene families are retained in tobacco. Homoeologous expression was found in all tissues examined (leaf, root, flower) suggesting that DNA methyltransferase genes were probably not themselves targets of uniparental epigenetic silencing for over thousands of generations of allotetraploid evolution. The level of CG and CHG methylation of selected high-copy repeated sequences was similar and high in tobacco and its diploid progenitors. We speculate that natural selection might favor additive expression of parental DNA methyltransferase genes maintaining high levels of DNA methylation in tobacco, which has a repeat-rich heterochromatic genome.