Grafting vigour is associated with DNA de-methylation in eggplant.
In horticulture, grafting is a popular technique used to combine positive traits from two different plants. This is achieved by joining the plant top part (scion) onto a rootstock which contains the stem and roots. Rootstocks can provide resistance to stress and increase plant production, but despite their wide use, the biological mechanisms driving rootstock-induced alterations of the scion phenotype remain largely unknown. Given that epigenetics plays a relevant role during distance signalling in plants, we studied the genome-wide DNA methylation changes induced in eggplant (Solanum melongena) scion using two interspecific rootstocks to increase vigour. We found that vigour was associated with a change in scion gene expression and a genome-wide hypomethylation in the CHH context. Interestingly, this hypomethylation correlated with the downregulation of younger and potentially more active long terminal repeat retrotransposable elements (LTR-TEs), suggesting that graft-induced epigenetic modifications are associated with both physiological and molecular phenotypes in grafted plants. Our results indicate that the enhanced vigour induced by heterografting in eggplant is associated with epigenetic modifications, as also observed in some heterotic hybrids.