Agronomy and Horticulture, Department of


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Date of this Version



Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2016, 17, 938; doi:10.3390/ijms17060938


Copyright © 2016, the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Open access, Creative Commons Attribution license 4.0.


Cytosine DNA methylation (CDM) is a highly abundant, heritable but reversible chemical modification to the genome. Herein, a machine learning approach was applied to analyze the accumulation of epigenetic marks in methylomes of 152 ecotypes and 85 silencing mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana. In an information-thermodynamics framework, two measurements were used: (1) the amount of information gained/lost with the CDM changes IR and (2) the uncertainty of not observing a SNP LCR. We hypothesize that epigenetic marks are chromosomal footprints accounting for different ontogenetic and phylogenetic histories of individual populations. A machine learning approach is proposed to verify this hypothesis. Results support the hypothesis by the existence of discriminatory information (DI) patterns of CDM able to discriminate between individuals and between individual subpopulations. The statistical analyses revealed a strong association between the topologies of the structured population of Arabidopsis ecotypes based on IR and on LCR, respectively. A statistical-physical relationship between IR and LCR was also found. Results to date imply that the genome-wide distribution of CDM changes is not only part of the biological signal created by the methylation regulatory machinery, but ensures the stability of the DNA molecule, preserving the integrity of the genetic message under continuous stress from thermal fluctuations in the cell environment.