New Phytol. 229 (4) 2238-2250 [2021-02-00; online 2020-11-22]
Heat-stressed Arabidopsis plants release heterochromatin-associated transposable element (TE) silencing, yet it is not accompanied by major reductions of epigenetic repressive modifications. In this study, we explored the functional role of histone H1 in repressing heterochromatic TEs in response to heat stress. We generated and analyzed RNA and bisulfite-sequencing data of wild-type and h1 mutant seedlings before and after heat stress. Loss of H1 caused activation of pericentromeric Gypsy elements upon heat treatment, despite these elements remaining highly methylated. By contrast, nonpericentromeric Copia elements became activated concomitantly with loss of DNA methylation. The same Copia elements became activated in heat-treated chromomethylase 2 (cmt2) mutants, indicating that H1 represses Copia elements through maintaining DNA methylation under heat. We discovered that H1 is required for TE repression in response to heat stress, but its functional role differs depending on TE location. Strikingly, H1-deficient plants treated with the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor zebularine were highly tolerant to heat stress, suggesting that both H1 and DNA methylation redundantly suppress the plant response to heat stress.