Crop domestication relies on harnessing the natural genomic diversity present in the cultivated population. The contribution of genetic variation for selection and improvement of traits in plants has been extensively studied. Besides this, variation in epigenetic components such as DNA methylation offers an alternative and mostly independent source of variability, but the contribution of epigenetic variation to crop domestication remains elusive. To assess this, the authors provided here methylomes for 45 soybean accessions, including wild soybeans, landraces and cultivars. They identified more than 5000 differentially methylated regions, mostly independent of loci showing genetic variation. Intriguingly, a significant fraction of differentially methylated regions are associated with genes involved in the carbohydrate pathways. This reveals the importance of epigenetic variation in soybean domestication and trait improvement. (Summary by Matthias Benoit).
Genome Biology 10.1186/s13059-018-1516-z