Extensive epigenetic reprogramming during the life cycle of Marchantia polymorpha

Marc W. Schmid, Alejandro Giraldo-Fonseca, Moritz Rövekamp, Dmitry Smetanin, John L. Bowman, Ueli Grossniklaus

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In plants, the existence and possible role of epigenetic reprogramming has been questioned because of the occurrence of stably inherited epialleles. Evidence suggests that epigenetic reprogramming does occur during land plant reproduction, but there is little consensus on the generality and extent of epigenetic reprogramming in plants. We studied DNA methylation dynamics during the life cycle of the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha. We isolated thalli and meristems from male and female gametophytes, archegonia, antherozoids, as well as sporophytes at early and late developmental stages, and compared their DNA methylation profiles. 

Results: Of all cytosines tested for differential DNA methylation, 42% vary significantly in their methylation pattern throughout the life cycle. However, the differences are limited to few comparisons between specific stages of the life cycle and suggest four major epigenetic states specific to sporophytes, vegetative gametophytes, antherozoids, and archegonia. Further analyses indicated clear differences in the mechanisms underlying reprogramming in the gametophytic and sporophytic generations, which are paralleled by differences in the expression of genes involved in DNA methylation. Differentially methylated cytosines with a gain in methylation in antherozoids and archegonia are enriched in the CG and CHG contexts, as well as in gene bodies and gene flanking regions. In contrast, gain of DNA methylation during sporophyte development is mostly limited to the CHH context, LTR retrotransposons, DNA transposons, and repeats. 

Conclusion: We conclude that epigenetic reprogramming occurs at least twice during the life cycle of M. polymorpha and that the underlying mechanisms are likely different between the two events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages17
JournalGenome Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2018


  • Bisulfite sequencing
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Life cycle
  • Liverwort
  • Marchantia polymorpha
  • Reprogramming
  • Tissue specificity

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