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 withAMF 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 ofAMF with or without HMs.
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