Neurospora crassa, a model system for epigenetics research.
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The filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa has provided a rich source of knowledge on epigenetic phenomena that would have been difficult or impossible to gain from other systems. Neurospora sports features found in higher eukaryotes but absent in both budding and fission yeast, including DNA methylation and H3K27 methylation, and also has distinct RNA interference (RNAi)-based silencing mechanisms operating in mitotic and meiotic cells. This has provided an unexpected wealth of information on gene silencing systems. One silencing mechanism, named repeat-induced point mutation (RIP), has both epigenetic and genetic aspects and provided the first example of a homology-based genome defense system. A second silencing mechanism, named quelling, is an RNAi-based mechanism that results in silencing of transgenes and their native homologs. A third, named meiotic silencing, is also RNAi-based but is distinct from quelling in its time of action, targets, and apparent purpose.