The role of DNA methyltransferases in plant genomic imprinting

  • Lucille Mathers

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Genomic imprinting is the epigenetic modification of loci, primarily by DNA methylation, which results in parent-of-origin-specific monoallelic expression of a small subset of genes. In plants, imprinting occurs during endosperm development and a balance of maternally- and paternally-expressed imprinted genes is essential for normal seed development. Dependence on DNA methylation for imprinting highlights the potential to manipulate seed development, and consequently seed size, by altering DNA methyltransferase activity. DNA METHYLTRANSFERASE 1 (MET1) is the primary plant maintenance DNA methyltransferase and plays a significant role in imprinting. However, no evaluation of the potential role for other MET1 family members in genomic imprinting has been reported. The current model for the control of imprinting in plants suggests that maintenance DNA methyltransferases are required throughout development, yet the tissue-specific requirement of these enzymes is unconfirmed as analysis has relied solely on constitutive DNA methyltransferase mutants. To address these problems and to evaluate the potential to alter seed size, the work reported in this thesis investigated the potential involvement of putative maintenance DNA methyltransferases MET2a, MET2b and MET3 and the tissue-specific role of MET1 in imprinting. Imprinting was not significantly altered in met2a-1, met2b-1 and met3-1 mutants, indicating that MET1 is the sole DNA methyltransferase required for imprinting. Transcriptional analysis suggested MET1 is expressed throughout floral organ development and in the male and female gametophyte generation indicating that MET1 is potentially available to maintain imprinting-dependent methylation in these tissues. Tools to suppress MET1 tissuespecifically were developed to investigate the tissue-specific requirement of MET1 for imprinting. Analysis indicates that such tools could also be used to alter seed size by manipulating imprinting in commercially important species. Further work is needed to validate this approach.
Date of Award1 Apr 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRoderick Scott (Supervisor)


  • genomic imprinting
  • seed development
  • tobacco
  • DNA methylation
  • arabidopsis thaliana

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