Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 1723–1737 | Cite as

Epigenetic control of heavy metal stress response in mycorrhizal versus non-mycorrhizal poplar plants

  • Angela Cicatelli
  • Valeria Todeschini
  • Guido Lingua
  • Stefania Biondi
  • Patrizia Torrigiani
  • Stefano Castiglione
Research Article


It was previously shown that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) exert a significant improvement of growth in a tolerant white poplar (Populus alba L.) clone (AL35) grown on Cu- and Zn-polluted soil via foliar alterations in the levels of defence/stress-related transcripts and molecules. However, nothing is known about the epigenetic changes which occur during tolerance acquisition in response to heavy metals (HMs) in the same mycorrhizal vs. non-mycorrhizal poplar plants. In order to analyse the epigenome in leaves of AL35 plants inoculated or not with AMF and grown in a greenhouse on multimetal polluted or unpolluted soil, the Methylation Sensitive Amplification Polymorphism (MSAP) approach was adopted to detect cytosine DNA methylation. Modest changes in cytosine methylation patterns were detected at first sampling (4 months from planting), whereas extensive alterations (hypomethylation) occurred at second sampling (after 6 months) in mycorrhizal plants grown in the presence of HMs. The sequencing of MSAP fragments led to the identification of genes belonging to several Gene Ontology categories. Seven MSAP fragments, selected on the basis of DNA methylation status in treated vs control AL35 leaves at the end of the experiment, were analysed for their transcript levels by means of qRT-PCR. Gene expression varied in treated samples relative to controls in response to HMs and/or AMF inoculation; in particular, transcripts of genes involved in RNA processing, cell wall and amino acid metabolism were upregulated in the presence of AMF with or without HMs.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi DNA methylation Epigenome Heavy metals MSAP technique Poplar 



This research was supported by funds from the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Scientific Research (PRIN 2003077418) and from the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea Protection (‘Research and development in biotechnology applied to the protection of the environment’ in collaboration with The People’s Republic of China) to S.C., and it is also part of the doctorate carried out by A.C. at the Federico II University of Naples (IT).

Supplementary material

11356_2013_2072_MOESM1_ESM.docx (12 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 12 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela Cicatelli
    • 1
  • Valeria Todeschini
    • 2
  • Guido Lingua
    • 2
  • Stefania Biondi
    • 3
  • Patrizia Torrigiani
    • 4
  • Stefano Castiglione
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Chimica e BiologiaUniversità di SalernoFiscianoItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze e Innovazione TecnologicaUniversità del Piemonte OrientaleAlessandriaItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento BiGeAUniversità di BolognaBolognaItaly
  4. 4.Dipartimento di Scienze AgrarieUniversità di BolognaBolognaItaly

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