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Non-exhaustive DNA methylation-mediated transposon silencing in the black truffle genome, a complex fungal genome with massive repeat element content.

Abstract

Background

We investigated how an extremely transposon element (TE)-rich organism such as the plant-symbiotic ascomycete truffle Tuber melanosporum exploits DNA methylation to cope with the more than 45,000 repeated elements that populate its genome.

Results

Whole-genome bisulfite sequencing performed on different developmental stages reveals a high fraction of methylated cytosines with a strong preference for CpG sites. The methylation pattern is highly similar among samples and selectively targets TEs rather than genes. A marked trend toward hypomethylation is observed for TEs located within a 1 kb distance from expressed genes, rather than segregated in TE-rich regions of the genome. Approximately 300 hypomethylated or unmethylated TEs are transcriptionally active, with higher expression levels in free-living mycelium compared to fruitbody. Indeed, multiple TE-enriched, copy number variant regions bearing a significant fraction of hypomethylated and expressed TEs are found almost exclusively in free-living mycelium. A reduction of DNA methylation, restricted to non-CpG sites and accompanied by an increase in TE expression, is observed upon treatment of free-living mycelia with 5-azacytidine.

Conclusions

Evidence derived from analysis of the T. melanosporum methylome indicates that a non-exhaustive, partly reversible, methylation process operates in truffles. This allows for the existence of hypomethylated, transcriptionally active TEs that are associated with copy number variant regions of the genome. Non-exhaustive TE methylation may reflect a role of active TEs in promoting genome plasticity and the ability to adapt to sudden environmental changes.

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