miR778 mediates gene expression, histone modification, and DNA methylation during cyst nematode parasitism

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Bennett, Morgan
Piya, Sarbottam
Hewezi, Tarek
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Oxford University Press
Baum, Thomas
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Plant Pathology and Microbiology
The Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology and the Department of Entomology officially merged as of September 1, 2022. The new department is known as the Department of Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Microbiology (PPEM). The overall mission of the Department is to benefit society through research, teaching, and extension activities that improve pest management and prevent disease. Collectively, the Department consists of about 100 faculty, staff, and students who are engaged in research, teaching, and extension activities that are central to the mission of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The Department possesses state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities in the Advanced Research and Teaching Building and in Science II. In addition, research and extension activities are performed off-campus at the Field Extension Education Laboratory, the Horticulture Station, the Agriculture Engineering/Agronomy Farm, and several Research and Demonstration Farms located around the state. Furthermore, the Department houses the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic, the Iowa Soybean Research Center, the Insect Zoo, and BugGuide. Several USDA-ARS scientists are also affiliated with the Department.
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Despite the known critical regulatory functions of microRNAs, histone modifications, and DNA methylation in reprograming plant epigenomes in response to pathogen infection, the molecular mechanisms underlying the tight coordination of these components remain poorly understood. Here, we show how Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) miR778 coordinately modulates the root transcriptome, histone methylation, and DNA methylation via post-transcriptional regulation of the H3K9 methyltransferases SU(var)3-9 homologue 5 (SUVH5) and SUVH6 upon infection by the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii. miR778 post-transcriptionally silences SUVH5 and SUVH6 upon nematode infection. Manipulation of the expression of miR778 and its two target genes significantly altered plant susceptibility to H. schachtii. RNA-seq analysis revealed a key role of SUVH5 and SUVH6 in reprograming the transcriptome of Arabidopsis roots upon H. schachtii infection. In addition, ChIP-seq analysis established SUVH5 and SUVH6 as the main enzymes mediating H3K9me2 deposition in Arabidopsis roots in response to nematode infection. ChIP-seq analysis also showed that these methyltransferases possess distinct DNA binding preferences in that they are targeting transposable elements under non-infected conditions and protein-coding genes in infected plants. Further analyses indicated that H3K9me2 deposition directed by SUVH5 and SUVH6 contributes to gene expression changes both in roots and in nematode feeding sites and preferentially associates with CG DNA methylation. Together, our results uncovered multi-layered epigenetic regulatory mechanisms coordinated by miR778 during Arabidopsis–H. schachtii interactions.
This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Plant Physiology following peer review. The version of record: Bennett, Morgan, Sarbottam Piya, Thomas J. Baum, and Tarek Hewezi. "miR778 mediates gene expression, histone modification, and DNA methylation during cyst nematode parasitism." Plant Physiology (2022) is available online at DOI: 10.1093/plphys/kiac228. Copyright 2022 American Society of Plant Biologists. Posted with permission.