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Male fertility in Arabidopsis requires active DNA demethylation of genes that control pollen tube function

Souraya Khouider, Filipe Borges, Chantal LeBlanc, Alexander Ungru, Arp Schnittger, Robert Martienssen, Vincent Colot, Daniel Bouyer


Active DNA demethylation is required for sexual reproduction in plants but the molecular determinants underlying this epigenetic control are not known. Here, we show in Arabidopsis thaliana that the DNA glycosylases DEMETER (DME) and REPRESSOR OF SILENCING 1 (ROS1) act semi-redundantly in the vegetative cell of pollen to demethylate DNA and ensure proper pollen tube progression. Moreover, we identify six pollen-specific genes with increased DNA methylation as well as reduced expression in dme and dme ;ros1. We further show that for four of these genes, reinstalling their expression individually in mutant pollen is sufficient to improve male fertility. Our findings demonstrate an essential role of active DNA demethylation in regulating genes involved in pollen function.

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Nat Commun. 2021 Jan 18 ;12(1):410. doi : 10.1038/s41467-020-20606-1