Research Highlights
Genome-wide DNA mutations in Arabidopsis plants after multigenerational exposure to high temperatures

On May 25, 2021, the team led by Professor Biao Jin from the College of Horticulture & Plant Protection, and Professor Chenwu Xu from the Agricultural College at Yangzhou University published online an article titled "Genome-wide DNA mutations in Arabidopsis plants after multigenerational exposure to high temperatures" in Genome Biology.

Elevated temperatures can cause physiological, biochemical, and molecular responses in plants that can greatly affect their growth and development. Mutations are the most fundamental force driving biological evolution. However, how long-term elevations in temperature influence the accumulation of mutations in plants remains unknown.

Multigenerational exposure of Arabidopsis MA (mutation accumulation) lines and MA populations to extreme heat and moderate warming results in significantly increased mutation rates in single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) and small indels. The team from Yangzhou University observes distinctive mutational spectra under extreme and moderately elevated temperatures, with significant increases in transition and transversion frequencies. Mutation occurs more frequently in intergenic regions, coding regions, and transposable elements in plants grown under elevated temperatures. At elevated temperatures, more mutations accumulate in genes associated with defense responses, DNA repair, and signaling. Notably, the distribution patterns of mutations among all progeny differ between MA populations and MA lines, suggesting that stronger selection effects occurred in populations. Methylation is observed more frequently at mutation sites, indicating its contribution to the mutation process at elevated temperatures. Mutations occurring within the same genome under elevated temperatures are significantly biased toward low gene density regions, special trinucleotides, tandem repeats, and adjacent simple repeats. Additionally, mutations found in all progeny overlap significantly with genetic variations reported in 1001 Genomes, suggesting non-uniform distribution of de novo mutations through the genome.

Collectively, the results suggest that elevated temperatures can accelerate the accumulation, and alter the molecular profiles, of DNA mutations in plants, thus providing significant insight into how environmental temperatures fuel plant evolution.

Professor Biao Jin and Professor Chenwu Xu from Yangzhou University are co-corresponding authors.

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