Spontaneous epimutations in plants

Frank Johannes, Robert J. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


(Table presented.). Summary: Heritable gains or losses of cytosine methylation can arise stochastically in plant genomes independently of DNA sequence changes. These so-called ‘spontaneous epimutations’ appear to be a byproduct of imperfect DNA methylation maintenance and epigenome reinforcement events that occur in specialized cell types. There is continued interest in the plant epigenetics community in trying to understand the broader implications of these stochastic events, as some have been shown to induce heritable gene expression changes, shape patterns of methylation diversity within and among plant populations, and appear to be responsive to multi-generational environmental stressors. In this paper we synthesized our current knowledge of the molecular basis and functional consequences of spontaneous epimutations in plants, discuss technical and conceptual challenges, and highlight emerging research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1253-1259
Number of pages7
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • DNA methylation
  • complex traits
  • epigenetic inheritance
  • genome evolution
  • plant epigenetics
  • plant evolution


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