In plants, the mechanism by which RNA can induce de novo cytosine methylation of homologous DNA is poorly understood. Cytosines in all sequence contexts become modified in response to RNA signals [1, 2]. Recent work has implicated the de novo DNA methyltransferases (DMTases), DRM1 and DRM2, in establishing RNA-directed methylation of the constitutive nopaline synthase promoter , as well as the DMTase MET1  and the putative histone deacetylase HDA6  in maintaining or enhancing CpG methylation induced by RNA. Despite the identification of enzymes that catalyze epigenetic modifications in response to RNA signals, it is unclear how RNA targets DNA for methylation. A screen for mutants defective in RNA-directed DNA methylation identified a novel putative chromatin-remodeling protein, DRD1. This protein belongs to a previously undefined, plant-specific subfamily of SWI2/SNF2-like proteins most similar to the RAD54/ATRX subfamily. In drd1 mutants, RNA-induced non-CpG methylation is almost eliminated at a target promoter, resulting in reactivation, whereas methylation of centromeric and rDNA repeats is unaffected. Thus, unlike the SNF2-like proteins DDM1/Lsh1 [6, 7] and ATRX [8, 9], which regulate methylation of repetitive sequences, DRD1 is not a global regulator of cytosine methylation. DRD1 is the first SNF2-like protein implicated in an RNA-guided, epigenetic modification of the genome.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)