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Evolutionary and functional genomics of DNA methylation in maize domestication and improvement.


DNA methylation is a ubiquitous chromatin feature, present in 25% of cytosines in the maize genome, but variation and evolution of the methylation landscape during maize domestication remain largely unknown. Here, we leverage whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) data on populations of modern maize, landrace, and teosinte (Zea mays ssp. parviglumis) to estimate epimutation rates and selection coefficients. We find weak evidence for direct selection on DNA methylation in any context, but thousands of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) are identified population-wide that are correlated with recent selection. For two trait-associated DMRs, vgt1-DMR and tb1-DMR, HiChIP data indicate that the interactive loops between DMRs and respective downstream genes are present in B73, a modern maize line, but absent in teosinte. Our results enable a better understanding of the evolutionary forces acting on patterns of DNA methylation and suggest a role of methylation variation in adaptive evolution.

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