Epigenetic Regulation of a Heat-Activated Retrotransposon in Cruciferous Vegetables

Abstract

Transposable elements (TEs) are highly abundant in plant genomes. Environmental stress is one of the critical stimuli that activate TEs. We analyzed a heat-activated retrotransposon, named ONSEN, in cruciferous vegetables. Multiple copies of ONSEN-like elements (OLEs) were found in all of the cruciferous vegetables that were analyzed. The copy number of OLE was high in Brassica oleracea, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprout, and kale. Phylogenic analysis demonstrated that some OLEs transposed after the allopolyploidization of parental Brassica species. Furthermore, we found that the high copy number of OLEs in B. oleracea appeared to induce transpositional silencing through epigenetic regulation, including DNA methylation. The results of this study would be relevant to the understanding of evolutionary adaptations to thermal environmental stress in different species.

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