DNA methylation in sugarcane somaclonal variants assessed through methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism.
Micropropagation is an important tool for large-scale multiplication of plant superior genotypes. However, somaclonal variation is one of the drawbacks of this process. Changes in DNA methylation have been widely reported as one of the main causes of somaclonal variations in plants. In order to investigate the occurrence of changes in the methylation pattern of sugarcane somaclonal variants, the MSAP (methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism) technique was applied to micro-propagated plantlets sampled at the third subculture phase. The mother plant, in vitro normal plantlets, and in vitro abnormal plantlets (somaclonal variants) of four sugarcane clones were screened against 16 MSAP selective primers for EcoRI/MspI and EcoRI/HpaII restriction enzymes. A total of 1005 and 1200 MSAP-derived markers with polymorphism percentages of 28.36 and 40.67 were obtained for EcoRI/HpaII and EcoRI/MspI restriction enzyme combinations, respectively. The genetic similarity between the mother plant and the somaclonal variants ranged from 0.877 to 0.911 (EcoRI/MspI) and from 0.928 to 0.955 (EcoRI/HpaII). Most of the MASPs among mother plant and micro-propagated plantlets were derived from EcoRI/MspI restriction enzymes suggesting alteration due to gain or loss of internal cytosine methylation. A higher rate of loss of methylation (hypomethylation) than gain of methylation (hypermethylation) was observed in the abnormal in vitro sugarcane plantlets. Although changes in the methylation pattern were also observed in the in vitro normal plantlets, they were lower than those observed for the in vitro abnormal plantlets. The MASP technique proved to be a promising tool to early assessment of genetic fidelity of micro-propagated sugarcane plants.