The Arabidopsis "retrovirome" and its regulation by epigenetically activated small RNA

In Arabidopsis, LTR-retrotransposons are activated by mutations in the chromatin remodeler DECREASE in DNA METHYLATION 1 (DDM1), giving rise to 21-22nt epigenetically activated siRNAs (easiRNAs).

We purified virus-like-particles (VLPs) from ddm1 and ddm1rdr6 mutants in which genomic RNA is reverse transcribed into complementary DNA. Next generation short-read and long-read sequencing of VLP DNA (VLP DNA-seq) revealed a comprehensive catalog of active LTR-retrotransposons without the need for mapping transposition, and independent of genomic copy number.

Linear replication intermediates of ATCOPIA93/EVADE revealed multiple central polypurine tracts (cPPT), a feature shared with HIV where cPPT promote nuclear localization. For ATCOPIA52, cPPT intermediates were not observed, but abundant circular DNA indicated transposon "suicide" by auto-integration within the VLP. easiRNA targeted ATCOPIA93/EVADE genomic RNA, polysome association of GYPSY (ATHILA) subgenomic RNA, and transcription via histone H3 lysine-9 dimethylation.

VLP DNA-seq provides a comprehensive landscape of LTR-retrotransposons, and their control at transcriptional, post-transcriptional and reverse transcriptional levels.

Authors: Seung Cho Lee, Evan Ernst, Benjamin Berube, Filipe Borges, Andrea Schorn, Jean-Sebastien Parent, Paul Ledon, Robert A Martienssen