Genome-wide non-mendelian inheritance of extra-genomic information in Arabidopsis


A fundamental tenet of classical mendelian genetics is that allelic information is stably inherited from one generation to the next, resulting in predictable segregation patterns of differing alleles1. Although several exceptions to this principle are known, all represent specialized cases that are mechanistically restricted to either a limited set of specific genes (for example mating type conversion in yeast2) or specific types of alleles (for example alleles containing transposons3 or repeated sequences4). Here we show that Arabidopsis plants homozygous for recessive mutant alleles of the organ fusion gene HOTHEAD5 (HTH) can inherit allele-specific DNA sequence information that was not present in the chromosomal genome of their parents but was present in previous generations. This previously undescribed process is shown to occur at all DNA sequence polymorphisms examined and therefore seems to be a general mechanism for extra-genomic inheritance of DNA sequence information. We postulate that these genetic restoration events are the result of a template-directed process that makes use of an ancestral RNA-sequence cache.

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Figure 1: Molecular genetic analysis of HTH.
Figure 2: DNA sequences of HTH and HTL genes around the sites of mutation in hth-4, hth-8 and hth-10.


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We thank R. M. Lee and T. Nussbaum Wagler for technical assistance, and J. A. Banks, J. L. Bowman, U. Grossniklaus, R. A. Jorgensen, J. Ogas, D. R. Smyth, A. Steimer, V. Sundaresan and M. A. Webb for discussions. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinion, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Robert E. Pruitt.

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Lolle, S., Victor, J., Young, J. et al. Genome-wide non-mendelian inheritance of extra-genomic information in Arabidopsis. Nature 434, 505–509 (2005).

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