BackgroundDifferences in DNA methylation can arise as epialleles, which are loci that differ in chromatin state and are inherited over generations. Epialleles offer an additional source of variation that can affect phenotypic diversity beyond changes to nucleotide sequence. Previous research has looked at the rate at which spontaneous epialleles arise but it is currently unknown how they are maintained across generations.ResultsWe used two Arabidopsis thaliana mutation accumulation (MA) lines and determined that over 99.998% of the methylated regions in the genome are stably inherited across each generation indicating that spontaneous epialleles are rare. We also developed a novel procedure that determines genotypes for offspring of genetically identical parents using only DNA methylation data. The resulting epigenotype maps are highly accurate and strongly agree with expected allele frequency and crossover number. Using epigenotype maps, we explore the inheritance of methylation states in regions of differential methylation between the parents of genetic crosses. Over half of the regions show methylation levels consistent with cis inheritance, whereas the other half show evidence of trans-chromosomal methylation and demethylation as well as other possibilities.ConclusionsDNA methylation is stably inherited by offspring and spontaneous epialleles are rare. The epigenotyping procedure that we describe provides an important first step to epigenetic quantitative trait loci mapping in genetically identical individuals.