Histone modifications associated with drought tolerance in the desert plant Zygophyllum dumosum Boiss Academic Article uri icon


  • Zygophyllum dumosum Boiss. is a perennial Saharo-Arabian phytogeographical element and a dominant shrub on the rocky limestone southeast-facing slopes of the Negev desert. The plant is highly active during the winter, and semideciduous during the dry summer, i.e., it sheds its leaflets, while leaving the thick, fleshy petiole green and rather active during the dry season. Being resistant to extreme perennial drought, Z. dumosum appears to provide an intriguing model plant for studying epigenetic mechanisms associated with drought tolerance in natural habitats. The transition from the wet to the dry season was accompanied by a significant decrease in nuclear size and with posttranslational modifications of histone H3 N-terminal tail. Dimethylation of H3 at lysine 4 (H3K4)—a modification associated with active gene expression—was found to be high during the wet season but gradually diminished on progression to the dry season. Unexpectedly, H3K9 di- and trimethylation as well as H3K27 di- and trimethylation could not be detected in Z. dumosum; H3K9 monomethylation appears to be prominent in Z. dumosum during the wet but not during the dry season. Contrary to Z. dumosum, H3K9 dimethylation was detected in other desert plants, including Artemisia sieberi, Anabasis articulata and Haloxylon scoparium. Taken together, our results demonstrate dynamic genome organization and unique pattern of histone H3 methylation displayed by Z. dumosum, which could have an adaptive value in variable environments of the Negev desert.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010

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