Epigenetic marks affecting the expression of genes are triggered by environmental stimuli, can persist throughout life or across multiple generations and can affect an individuals phenotype. In recent years there has been a revival of interest about the possible role of epigenetics in affecting complex or quantitative traits. This growing interest is partly driven by the increasing affordability of ultra-high throughput sequencing methods for studying the epigenome. In this review we focus on some of the possible applications of epigenetic knowledge to the improvement of aquaculture. DNA methylation, in which a methyl group is added to the C5 carbon residue of a cytosine by DNA methyltransferase, has been the most widely studied epigenetic mechanism to date, and methods used to obtain and analyse genome-wide DNA methylation data are outlined. The influence of epigenetic processes on the estimation of breeding values and accuracy of genomic selection for genetic improvement of aquatic species is explored. The possibility of tightly controlling nutritional stimuli found to affect epigenetic processes in order to tailor the development of fish for aquaculture is also discussed. Complex experiments will be required in order to gain a better understanding of the role of epigenetics in affecting quantitative traits in fish.
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