Plant Science Innovation, Center for


Date of this Version

January 2002


Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 99:2 (January 22, 2002), pp. 1076–1081; doi: 10.1073/pnas.022392999. Copyright © 2002 The National Academy of Sciences. Used by permission.


In the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the epigenetic silencing of transgenes occurs, as in land plants, at both the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. In the case of single-copy transgenes, transcriptional silencing takes place without detectable cytosine methylation of the introduced DNA. We have isolated two mutant strains, Mut-9 and Mut-11, that reactivate expression of a transcriptionally silenced single-copy transgene. These suppressors are deficient in the repression of a DNA transposon and a retrotransposon-like element. In addition, the mutants show enhanced sensitivity to DNA-damaging agents, particularly radiomimetic chemicals inducing DNA double- strand breaks. All of these phenotypes are much more prominent in a double mutant strain. These observations suggest that multiple partly redundant epigenetic mechanisms are involved in the repression of transgenes and transposons in eukaryotes, presumably as components of a system that evolved to preserve genomic stability. Our results also raise the possibility of mechanistic connections between epigenetic transcriptional silencing and DNA double-strand break repair.