Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Regulatory link between DNA methylation and active demethylation in Arabidopsis.

PMID 25733903


De novo DNA methylation through the RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) pathway and active DNA demethylation play important roles in controlling genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in plants. Little is known about how cells manage the balance between DNA methylation and active demethylation activities. Here, we report the identification of a unique RdDM target sequence, where DNA methylation is required for maintaining proper active DNA demethylation of the Arabidopsis genome. In a genetic screen for cellular antisilencing factors, we isolated several REPRESSOR OF SILENCING 1 (ros1) mutant alleles, as well as many RdDM mutants, which showed drastically reduced ROS1 gene expression and, consequently, transcriptional silencing of two reporter genes. A helitron transposon element (TE) in the ROS1 gene promoter negatively controls ROS1 expression, whereas DNA methylation of an RdDM target sequence between ROS1 5' UTR and the promoter TE region antagonizes this helitron TE in regulating ROS1 expression. This RdDM target sequence is also targeted by ROS1, and defective DNA demethylation in loss-of-function ros1 mutant alleles causes DNA hypermethylation of this sequence and concomitantly causes increased ROS1 expression. Our results suggest that this sequence in the ROS1 promoter region serves as a DNA methylation monitoring sequence (MEMS) that senses DNA methylation and active DNA demethylation activities. Therefore, the ROS1 promoter functions like a thermostat (i.e., methylstat) to sense DNA methylation levels and regulates DNA methylation by controlling ROS1 expression.