Interactions between metabolism and chromatin in plant models

Christian Lindermayr, Eva Esther Rudolf, Jörg Durner, Martin Groth


One of the fascinating aspects of epigenetic regulation is that it provides means to rapidly adapt to environmental change. This is particularly relevant in the plant kingdom, where most species are sessile and exposed to increasing habitat fluctuations due to global warming. Although the inheritance of epigenetically controlled traits acquired through environmental impact is a matter of debate, it is well documented that environmental cues lead to epigenetic changes, including chromatin modifications, that affect cell differentiation or are associated with plant acclimation and defense priming. Still, in most cases, the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. An emerging topic that promises to reveal new insights is the interaction between epigenetics and metabolism.

Scope of review

This study reviews the links between metabolism and chromatin modification, in particular histone acetylation, histone methylation, and DNA methylation, in plants and compares them to examples from the mammalian field, where the relationship to human diseases has already generated a larger body of literature. This study particularly focuses on the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitric oxide (NO) in modulating metabolic pathways and gene activities that are involved in these chromatin modifications. As ROS and NO are hallmarks of stress responses, we predict that they are also pivotal in mediating chromatin dynamics during environmental responses.

Major conclusions

Due to conservation of chromatin-modifying mechanisms, mammals and plants share a common dependence on metabolic intermediates that serve as cofactors for chromatin modifications. In addition, plant-specific non-CG methylation pathways are particularly sensitive to changes in folate-mediated one-carbon metabolism. Finally, reactive oxygen and nitrogen species may fine-tune epigenetic processes and include similar signaling mechanisms involved in environmental stress responses in plants as well as animals.