The Role and Regulation of Imprinting in Arabidopsis Thaliana

  • Alexander Topham

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The ‘epigenome’ refers to a difference in the transcriptional behaviour of a given allele that cannot be explained by differences in the genetic code, or ‘mutation’ at that locus. The epigenome is associated with certain biochemical marks, and generally exerts a silencing effect upon the transcription of genes under its influence. In Angiosperms such as Arabidopsis thaliana, fertilisation of both the egg and central cell– referred to as ‘double fertilisation’ – giving rise to the embryo and endosperm respectively, the latter of which is one of the most important tissues in the human food chain. Upon double fertilisation the gametes of each parent are known to contribute differing epigenetic ‘imprints’, where one gamete contributes a copy of a given allele in a transcriptionally unavailable state, while the other parent’s copy is in an available state. When a gene resides in such a region, the result is that only one parent’s copy is hence transcribed; such a gene is said to be ‘imprinted.’ Imprinting is known to affect the development of the placenta as well as some of the adult tissues in mammalian models, and in plants is most extensively found in the endosperm, where without the imprint of both parents the resulting seed exhibits reduced viability and defective endosperm development.A relative dearth in the number of known imprinted loci in the model angiosperm, A. thaliana makes is difficult to make reliable assessments of its role and regulation. This thesis initially aimed to extend the count of known imprinted genes using a model that proved insufficient to identify novel imprinted genes, and presents a meta-analysis showing that the reliable attribution of imprinted status to a gene is difficult using high-throughput methods as well. In addition, the further characterisation of a novel imprinted gene identified previously by this lab, MPC, with a view to acquiring a more detailed understanding of its role using mutants carrying point mutations in the MPC protein showed only a subtle phenotype to discern them from wild-type plants. There has also been recent speculation of a role for repeat elements in imprinting. This thesis presents findings suggesting that the apparent association of repeat elements with imprinted genes is an artefact rather of an association of endosperm-expressed genes with transposable elements, rather than genes that are specifically imprinted.
Date of Award24 Apr 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRoderick Scott (Supervisor) & Sushma Tiwari (Supervisor)


  • arabidopsis
  • imprinting
  • endosperm
  • seed
  • epigenetics

Cite this