Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Rice transposable elements are characterized by various methylation environments in the genome

Miwako Takata1, Akihiro Kiyohara1, Atsuko Takasu1, Yuji Kishima1*, Hisako Ohtsubo2 and Yoshio Sano2

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Plant Breeding, Graduate School of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-8589, Japan

2 Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:469  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-469

Published: 20 December 2007



Recent studies using high-throughput methods have revealed that transposable elements (TEs) are a comprehensive target for DNA methylation. However, the relationship between TEs and their genomic environment regarding methylation still remains unclear. The rice genome contains representatives of all known TE families with different characteristics of chromosomal distribution, structure, transposition, size, and copy number. Here we studied the DNA methylation state around 12 TEs in nine genomic DNAs from cultivated rice strains and their closely related wild strains.


We employed a transposon display (TD) method to analyze the methylation environments in the genomes. The 12 TE families, consisting of four class I elements, seven class II elements, and one element of a different class, were differentially distributed in the rice chromosomes: some elements were concentrated in the centromeric or pericentromeric regions, but others were located in euchromatic regions. The TD analyses revealed that the TE families were embedded in flanking sequences with different methylation degrees. Each TE had flanking sequences with similar degrees of methylation among the nine rice strains. The class I elements tended to be present in highly methylated regions, while those of the class II elements showed widely varying degrees of methylation. In some TE families, the degrees of methylation were markedly lower than the average methylation state of the genome. In two families, dramatic changes of the methylation state occurred depending on the distance from the TE.


Our results demonstrate that the TE families in the rice genomes can be characterized by the methylation states of their surroundings. The copy number and degree of conservation of the TE family are not likely to be correlated with the degree of methylation. We discuss possible relationships between the methylation state of TEs and their surroundings. This is the first report demonstrating that TEs in the genome are associated with a particular methylation environment that is a feature of a given TE.