A bioinformatics analysis of the arabidopsis thaliana epigenome

Abstract : Eukaryotic genomes are packed into the confines of the nucleus through a nucleoproteic structure called chromatin. Chromatin is a dynamic structure that can respond to developmental or environmental cues to regulate and orchestrate the functions of the genome. The fundamental unit of chromatin, the nucleosome, consists of a protein octamer, which contains two molecules of each of the core histone proteins (H2A, H2B, H3, H4), around which 147 bp of DNA is wrapped. The post-translational modifications (PTMs) of histones and methylation of the cytosine residues in DNA (DNA methylation) constitute primary epigenomic markers that dynamically alter the interaction of DNA with nucleosomes and participate in the regulation and control access to the underlying DNA. The main objective of my thesis was to understand the spatial and temporal dynamics of chromatin states in Arabidopsis by investigating on a genome-wide scale, patterns of DNA methylation and a set of well-characterized histone post-translational modifications. DNA methylation, a hallmark of epigenetic inactivation and heterochromatin in both plants and mammals, is largely confined to transposable elements and other repeat sequences. I show in this thesis that in Arabidopsis, methylated TE sequences having no or few matching siRNAs, and therefore unlikely to be targeted by the RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) machinery, acquire DNA methylation through spreading from adjacent siRNA-targeted regions. Further, I propose that this spreading of DNA methylation through promoter regions can explain, at least in part, the negative impact of siRNA-targeted TE sequences on neighbouring gene expression. In a second part, I have contributed to integrative analysis of DNA methylation and eleven histone PTMs. I have shown through combinatorial and cluster analysis that the Arabidopsis epigenome shows simple principles of organisation and can be distinguished into four primary types of chromatin that preferentially index active genes, repressed genes, TEs, and intergenic regions. Finally, in a third part, I integrated epigenomics with transcriptome data at three different time points in a developmental window to investigate the temporal dynamics of chromatin states in response to an external stimulus. This used the light-induced transcriptional response as a paradigm to assess the impact of histone H2B monoubiquitination (H2Bub), and showed that this PTM is associated with active transcription and implicated in the selective fine-tuning of gene expression. Taken together, the work presented here contributes significantly to our understanding of the spatial organisation of chromatin states in plants, its dynamic nature and how it can contribute to allow plants to respond to a signal from the environment.
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Ikhlak Ahmed. A bioinformatics analysis of the arabidopsis thaliana epigenome. Agricultural sciences. Université Paris Sud - Paris XI, 2011. English. ⟨NNT : 2011PA112230⟩. ⟨tel-00684391⟩

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