PLoS ONE (Jan 2014)

Divergence of gene body DNA methylation and evolution of plant duplicate genes.

  • Jun Wang,
  • Nicholas C Marowsky,
  • Chuanzhu Fan

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9, no. 10
p. e110357


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It has been shown that gene body DNA methylation is associated with gene expression. However, whether and how deviation of gene body DNA methylation between duplicate genes can influence their divergence remains largely unexplored. Here, we aim to elucidate the potential role of gene body DNA methylation in the fate of duplicate genes. We identified paralogous gene pairs from Arabidopsis and rice (Oryza sativa ssp. japonica) genomes and reprocessed their single-base resolution methylome data. We show that methylation in paralogous genes nonlinearly correlates with several gene properties including exon number/gene length, expression level and mutation rate. Further, we demonstrated that divergence of methylation level and pattern in paralogs indeed positively correlate with their sequence and expression divergences. This result held even after controlling for other confounding factors known to influence the divergence of paralogs. We observed that methylation level divergence might be more relevant to the expression divergence of paralogs than methylation pattern divergence. Finally, we explored the mechanisms that might give rise to the divergence of gene body methylation in paralogs. We found that exonic methylation divergence more closely correlates with expression divergence than intronic methylation divergence. We show that genomic environments (e.g., flanked by transposable elements and repetitive sequences) of paralogs generated by various duplication mechanisms are associated with the methylation divergence of paralogs. Overall, our results suggest that the changes in gene body DNA methylation could provide another avenue for duplicate genes to develop differential expression patterns and undergo different evolutionary fates in plant genomes.