Knockout of DDM1 in Physcomitrium patens disrupts DNA methylation with a minute effect on transposon regulation and development

Ofir Griess, Katherine Domb, Aviva Katz, Keith D. Harris, Karina G. Heskiau, Nir Ohad*, Assaf Zemach*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Snf2 chromatin remodeler, DECREASE IN DNA METHYLATION 1 (DDM1) facilitates DNA methylation. In flowering plants, DDM1 mediates methylation in heterochromatin, which is targeted primarily by MET1 and CMT methylases and is necessary for silencing transposons and for proper development. DNA methylation mechanisms evolved throughout plant evolution, whereas the role of DDM1 in early terrestrial plants remains elusive. Here, we studied the function of DDM1 in the moss, Physcomitrium (Physcomitrella) patens, which has robust DNA methylation that suppresses transposons and is mediated by a MET1, a CMT, and a DNMT3 methylases. To elucidate the role of DDM1 in P. patens, we have generated a knockout mutant and found DNA methylation to be strongly disrupted at any of its sequence contexts. Symmetric CG and CHG sequences were affected stronger than asymmetric CHH sites. Furthermore, despite their separate targeting mechanisms, CG (MET) and CHG (CMT) methylation were similarly depleted by about 75%. CHH (DNMT3) methylation was overall reduced by about 25%, with an evident hyper-methylation activity within lowly-methylated euchromatic transposon sequences. Despite the strong hypomethylation effect, only a minute number of transposons were transcriptionally activated in Ppddm1. Finally, Ppddm1 was found to develop normally throughout the plant life cycle. These results demonstrate that DNA methylation is strongly dependent on DDM1 in a nonflowering plant; that DDM1 is required for plant-DNMT3 (CHH) methylases, though to a lower extent than for MET1 and CMT enzymes; and that distinct and separate methylation pathways (e.g. MET1-CG and CMT-CHG), can be equally regulated by the chromatin and that DDM1 plays a role in it. Finally, our data suggest that the biological significance of DDM1 in terms of transposon regulation and plant development, is species dependent.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0279688
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2023


FundersFunder number
Israeli Centers for Research Excellence Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, Israel Science Foundation757/12
European Research Council767/09, 679551
Israel Science Foundation1636/15


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