Genome expansion of Arabis alpina linked with retrotransposition and reduced symmetric DNA methylation

Willing E-M, Rawat V, Mandáková T, Maumus F, Velikkakam James G, Nordström KJV, Becker C, Warthmann N, Chica C, Szarzynska B, Zytnicki M, Albani MC, Kiefer C, Bergonzi S, Castaings L, Mateos JL, Berns MC, Bujdoso N, Piofczyk T, de Lorenzo L, Barrero-Sicilia C, Mateos I, Piednoël M, Hagmann J, Chen-Min-Tao R, Iglesias-Fernández R, Schuster SC, Alonso-Blanco C, Roudier F, Carbonero P, Paz-Ares J, Davis SJ, Pecinka A, Quesneville H, Colot V, Lysak MA, Weigel D, Coupland G, Schneeberger K

Nature Plants 1: 14023.


Despite evolutionary conserved mechanisms to silence transposable element activity, there are drastic differences in the abundance of transposable elements even among closely related plant species. We conducted a de novo assembly for the 375 Mb genome of the perennial model plant, Arabis alpina. Analysing this genome revealed long-lasting and recent transposable element activity predominately driven by Gypsy long terminal repeat retrotransposons, which extended the low-recombining pericentromeres and transformed large formerly euchromatic regions into repeat-rich pericentromeric regions. This reduced capacity for long terminal repeat retrotransposon silencing and removal in A. alpina co-occurs with unexpectedly low levels of DNA methylation. Most remarkably, the striking reduction of symmetrical CG and CHG methylation suggests weakened DNA methylation maintenance in A. alpina compared with Arabidopsis thaliana. Phylogenetic analyses indicate a highly dynamic evolution of some components of methylation maintenance machinery that might be related to the unique methylation in A. alpina.