Paramutation-like features of multiple natural epialleles in tomato

29 May 2018

Background: Freakish and rare or the tip of the iceberg? Both phrases have been used to refer to paramutation, an epigenetic drive that contravenes Mendel’s first law of segregation. Although its underlying mechanisms are beginning to unravel, its understanding relies only on a few examples that may involve transgenes or artificially generated epialleles. Results: By using DNA methylation of introgression lines as an indication of past paramutation, we reveal that the paramutation-like properties of the H06 locus in hybrids of Solanum lycopersicum and a range of tomato relatives and cultivars depend on the timing of sRNA production and conform to an RNA-directed mechanism. In addition, by scanning the methylomes of tomato introgression lines for shared regions of differential methylation that are absent in the S. lycopersicum parent, we identify thousands of candidate regions for paramutation-like behaviour. The methylation patterns for a subset of these regions segregate with non Mendelian ratios, consistent with secondary paramutation-like interactions to variable extents depending on the locus. Conclusion: Together these results demonstrate that paramutation-like epigenetic interactions arecommon for natural epialleles in tomato, but vary in timing and penetrance. Keywords: epigenetics; paramutation; DNA methylation; small RNAs; RNA-directed DNA methylation; hybrids; introgression lines