The John Innes Centre Publications Repository contains details of all publications resulting from our researchers.

The repository also includes Open Access publications, which can be identified by the icons found on search results.

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The creation of this publications repository was funded by BBSRC.

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Frost J. M., Kim M. Y., Park G. T., Hsieh P. H., Nakamura M., Lin S. J. H., Yoo H., Choi J., Ikeda Y., Kinoshita T., Choi Y., Zilberman D., Fischer R. L. (2018)

FACT complex is required for DNA demethylation at heterochromatin during reproduction in Arabidopsis.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (115) E4720-E4729

Publisher's version: 10.1073/pnas.1713333115

ID: 59533

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The DEMETER (DME) DNA glycosylase catalyzes genome-wide DNA demethylation and is required for endosperm genomic imprinting and embryo viability. Targets of DME-mediated DNA demethylation reside in small, euchromatic, AT-rich transposons and at the boundaries of large transposons, but how DME interacts with these diverse chromatin states is unknown. The STRUCTURE SPECIFIC RECOGNITION PROTEIN 1 (SSRP1) subunit of the chromatin remodeler FACT (facilitates chromatin transactions), was previously shown to be involved in the DME-dependent regulation of genomic imprinting in Arabidopsis endosperm. Therefore, to investigate the interaction between DME and chromatin, we focused on the activity of the two FACT subunits, SSRP1 and SUPPRESSOR of TY16 (SPT16), during reproduction in Arabidopsis We found that FACT colocalizes with nuclear DME in vivo, and that DME has two classes of target sites, the first being euchromatic and accessible to DME, but the second, representing over half of DME targets, requiring the action of FACT for DME-mediated DNA demethylation genome-wide. Our results show that the FACT-dependent DME targets are GC-rich heterochromatin domains with high nucleosome occupancy enriched with H3K9me2 and H3K27me1. Further, we demonstrate that heterochromatin-associated linker histone H1 specifically mediates the requirement for FACT at a subset of DME-target loci. Overall, our results demonstrate that FACT is required for DME targeting by facilitating its access to heterochromatin.


Cytosine methylation regulates essential genome functions across eukaryotes, but the fundamental question of whether nucleosomal or naked DNA is the preferred substrate of plant and animal methyltransferases remains unresolved. Here, we show that genetic inactivation of a single DDM1/Lsh family nucleosome remodeler biases methylation toward inter-nucleosomal linker DNA in Arabidopsis thaliana and mouse. We find that DDM1 enables methylation of DNA bound to the nucleosome, suggesting that nucleosome-free DNA is the preferred substrate of eukaryotic methyltransferases in vivo. Furthermore, we show that simultaneous mutation of DDM1 and linker histone H1 in Arabidopsis reproduces the strong linker-specific methylation patterns of species that diverged from flowering plants and animals over a billion years ago. Our results indicate that in the absence of remodeling, nucleosomes are strong barriers to DNA methyltransferases. Linker-specific methylation can evolve simply by breaking the connection between nucleosome remodeling and DNA methylation.


Methylation in the bodies of active genes is common in animals and vascular plants. Evolutionary patterns indicate homeostatic functions for this type of methylation.

Park K., Kim M. Y., Vickers M., Park J. S., Hyun Y., Okamoto T., Zilberman D., Fischer R. L., Feng X., Choi Y., Scholten S. (2016)

DNA demethylation is initiated in the central cells of Arabidopsis and rice.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (113) 15138-15143

Publisher's version: 10.1073/pnas.1619047114

ID: 59630

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Cytosine methylation is a DNA modification with important regulatory functions in eukaryotes. In flowering plants, sexual reproduction is accompanied by extensive DNA demethylation, which is required for proper gene expression in the endosperm, a nutritive extraembryonic seed tissue. Endosperm arises from a fusion of a sperm cell carried in the pollen and a female central cell. Endosperm DNA demethylation is observed specifically on the chromosomes inherited from the central cell in Arabidopsis thaliana, rice, and maize, and requires the DEMETER DNA demethylase in Arabidopsis DEMETER is expressed in the central cell before fertilization, suggesting that endosperm demethylation patterns are inherited from the central cell. Down-regulation of the MET1 DNA methyltransferase has also been proposed to contribute to central cell demethylation. However, with the exception of three maize genes, central cell DNA methylation has not been directly measured, leaving the origin and mechanism of endosperm demethylation uncertain. Here, we report genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation in the central cells of Arabidopsis and rice-species that diverged 150 million years ago-as well as in rice egg cells. We find that DNA demethylation in both species is initiated in central cells, which requires DEMETER in Arabidopsis However, we do not observe a global reduction of CG methylation that would be indicative of lowered MET1 activity; on the contrary, CG methylation efficiency is elevated in female gametes compared with nonsexual tissues. Our results demonstrate that locus-specific, active DNA demethylation in the central cell is the origin of maternal chromosome hypomethylation in the endosperm.

Huff J. T., Zilberman D., Roy S. W. (2016)

Mechanism for DNA transposons to generate introns on genomic scales.

Nature (538) 533-536

Publisher's version: 10.1038/nature20110

ID: 59534

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The discovery of introns four decades ago was one of the most unexpected findings in molecular biology. Introns are sequences interrupting genes that must be removed as part of messenger RNA production. Genome sequencing projects have shown that most eukaryotic genes contain at least one intron, and frequently many. Comparison of these genomes reveals a history of long evolutionary periods during which few introns were gained, punctuated by episodes of rapid, extensive gain. However, although several detailed mechanisms for such episodic intron generation have been proposed, none has been empirically supported on a genomic scale. Here we show how short, non-autonomous DNA transposons independently generated hundreds to thousands of introns in the prasinophyte Micromonas pusilla and the pelagophyte Aureococcus anophagefferens. Each transposon carries one splice site. The other splice site is co-opted from the gene sequence that is duplicated upon transposon insertion, allowing perfect splicing out of the RNA. The distributions of sequences that can be co-opted are biased with respect to codons, and phasing of transposon-generated introns is similarly biased. These transposons insert between pre-existing nucleosomes, so that multiple nearby insertions generate nucleosome-sized intervening segments. Thus, transposon insertion and sequence co-option may explain the intron phase biases and prevalence of nucleosome-sized exons observed in eukaryotes. Overall, the two independent examples of proliferating elements illustrate a general DNA transposon mechanism that can plausibly account for episodes of rapid, extensive intron gain during eukaryotic evolution.


Dnmt1 epigenetically propagates symmetrical CG methylation in many eukaryotes. Their genomes are typically depleted of CG dinucleotides because of imperfect repair of deaminated methylcytosines. Here, we extensively survey diverse species lacking Dnmt1 and show that, surprisingly, symmetrical CG methylation is nonetheless frequently present and catalyzed by a different DNA methyltransferase family, Dnmt5. Numerous Dnmt5-containing organisms that diverged more than a billion years ago exhibit clustered methylation, specifically in nucleosome linkers. Clustered methylation occurs at unprecedented densities and directly disfavors nucleosomes, contributing to nucleosome positioning between clusters. Dense methylation is enabled by a regime of genomic sequence evolution that enriches CG dinucleotides and drives the highest CG frequencies known. Species with linker methylation have small, transcriptionally active nuclei that approach the physical limits of chromatin compaction. These features constitute a previously unappreciated genome architecture, in which dense methylation influences nucleosome positions, likely facilitating nuclear processes under extreme spatial constraints.

Zemach A., Kim M. Y., Hsieh P. H., Coleman-Derr D., Eshed-Williams L., Thao K., Harmer S. L., Zilberman D. (2013)

The Arabidopsis nucleosome remodeler DDM1 allows DNA methyltransferases to access H1-containing heterochromatin.

Cell (153) 193-205

Publisher's version: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.02.033

ID: 59536

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Nucleosome remodelers of the DDM1/Lsh family are required for DNA methylation of transposable elements, but the reason for this is unknown. How DDM1 interacts with other methylation pathways, such as small-RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM), which is thought to mediate plant asymmetric methylation through DRM enzymes, is also unclear. Here, we show that most asymmetric methylation is facilitated by DDM1 and mediated by the methyltransferase CMT2 separately from RdDM. We find that heterochromatic sequences preferentially require DDM1 for DNA methylation and that this preference depends on linker histone H1. RdDM is instead inhibited by heterochromatin and absolutely requires the nucleosome remodeler DRD1. Together, DDM1 and RdDM mediate nearly all transposon methylation and collaborate to repress transposition and regulate the methylation and expression of genes. Our results indicate that DDM1 provides DNA methyltransferases access to H1-containing heterochromatin to allow stable silencing of transposable elements in cooperation with the RdDM pathway.

Ibarra C. A., Feng X., Schoft V. K., Hsieh T. F., Uzawa R., Rodrigues J. A., Zemach A., Chumak N., Machlicova A., Nishimura T., Rojas D., Fischer R. L., Tamaru H., Zilberman D. (2012)

Active DNA demethylation in plant companion cells reinforces transposon methylation in gametes.

Science (337) 1360-1364

Publisher's version: 10.1126/science.1224839

ID: 59537

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The Arabidopsis thaliana central cell, the companion cell of the egg, undergoes DNA demethylation before fertilization, but the targeting preferences, mechanism, and biological significance of this process remain unclear. Here, we show that active DNA demethylation mediated by the DEMETER DNA glycosylase accounts for all of the demethylation in the central cell and preferentially targets small, AT-rich, and nucleosome-depleted euchromatic transposable elements. The vegetative cell, the companion cell of sperm, also undergoes DEMETER-dependent demethylation of similar sequences, and lack of DEMETER in vegetative cells causes reduced small RNA-directed DNA methylation of transposons in sperm. Our results demonstrate that demethylation in companion cells reinforces transposon methylation in plant gametes and likely contributes to stable silencing of transposable elements across generations.

Zemach A., McDaniel I. E., Silva P., Zilberman D. (2010)

Genome-wide evolutionary analysis of eukaryotic DNA methylation.

Science (328) 916-9

Publisher's version: 10.1126/science.1186366

ID: 55753

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Eukaryotic cytosine methylation represses transcription but also occurs in the bodies of active genes, and the extent of methylation biology conservation is unclear. We quantified DNA methylation in 17 eukaryotic genomes and found that gene body methylation is conserved between plants and animals, whereas selective methylation of transposons is not. We show that methylation of plant transposons in the CHG context extends to green algae and that exclusion of histone H2A.Z from methylated DNA is conserved between plants and animals, and we present evidence for RNA-directed DNA methylation of fungal genes. Our data demonstrate that extant DNA methylation systems are mosaics of conserved and derived features, and indicate that gene body methylation is an ancient property of eukaryotic genomes.

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