Genome-wide DNA Methylation analysis in response to salinity in the model plant caliph medic (Medicago truncatula)

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BACKGROUND: DNA methylation has a potential role in controlling gene expression and may, therefore, contribute to salinity adaptation in plants. Caliph medic (Medicago truncatula) is a model legume of moderate salinity tolerance capacity; however, a base-resolution DNA methylome map is not yet available for this plant. RESULTS: In this report, a differential whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) was carried out using DNA samples extracted from root tissues exposed to either control or saline conditions. Around 50 million differentially methylated sites (DMSs) were recognized, 7% of which were significantly (p < 0.05, FDR < 0.05) altered in response to salinity. This analysis showed that 77.0% of the contexts of DMSs were mCHH, while only 9.1% and 13.9% were mCHG and mCG, respectively. The average change in methylation level was increased in all sequence contexts, ranging from 3.8 to 10.2% due to salinity stress. However, collectively, the level of the DNA methylation in the gene body slightly decreased in response to salinity treatment. The global increase in DNA methylation due to salinity was confirmed by mass spectrometry analysis. Gene expression analysis using qPCR did not reveal a constant relationship between the level of mCG methylation and the transcription abundance of some genes of potential importance in salinity tolerance, such as the potassium channel KAT3, the vacuolar H+-pyrophosphatase (V-PPase), and the AP2/ERF and bZIP transcription factors, implying the involvement of other epigenetic gene expression controllers. Computational functional prediction of the annotated genes that embrace DMSs revealed the presence of enzymes with potential cellular functions in biological processes associated with salinity tolerance mechanisms. CONCLUSIONS: The information obtained from this study illustrates the effect of salinity on DNA methylation and shows how plants can remodel the landscape of 5-methylcytosine nucleotide (5-mC) in the DNA across gene structures, in response to salinity. This remodeling varies between gene regions and between 5-mC sequence contexts. The mCG has a vague impact on the expression levels of a few selected potentially important genes in salt tolerant mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Genomics
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


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