Special Issue "Epigenetics and Adaptation"

A special issue of Genes (ISSN 2073-4425). This special issue belongs to the section "Population and Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2018).

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Christoph Grunau Website E-Mail
Université de Perpignan Via Domitia, Perpignan, France
Interests: epigenetics; epigenomics; evolution; parasitology
Guest Editor
Dr. Jérémy Le Luyer Website E-Mail
Centre Ifremer du Pacifique, UMR-241 Ecosystèmes Insulaires Océaniens, Institut Français pour l’Exploitation de la Mer, 98719 Taravao, Tahiti, Polynésie Française
Interests: Adaptation; phenotypic plasticity; epigenetics; transcriptomics; population genomics
Guest Editor
Dr. Martin Laporte Website E-Mail
Institut de Biologie Intégrative et des Systèmes (IBIS), Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada
Interests: Epigenomics; conservation genomics; numerical molecular ecology; morphology; phenotypic plasticity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It has become clear that epigenetic mechanisms are often involved in organismal responses to the environment, and, at the same time, that part of the epigenetic code can be transgenerationally stable. However, the extent to which these two phenomena are linked and contribute to the adaptive capacity of natural populations remains unclear. So far, most insights about the determinants of epigenetic variation comes from studies of a few model species. However, high-resolution analysis methods are increasingly being adopted to investigate epigenetic variation also in non-model species and in natural populations. This rapidly broadens our knowledge of the patterns, causes and consequences of epigenetic variation in natural systems. In this special issue, we will provide an update of this research field, in the goal to better understand the stability of inherited epigenetic marks, the type of sequences affected in the genome, the effects of epigenetic variants on phenotypic variation, and the epigenetic mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity and adaptation in plants and animals.

Prof. Christoph Grunau
Dr. Jérémy Le Luyer
Dr. Martin Laporte
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Epigenetics
  • adaptation
  • phenotypic plasticity

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Histone Methylation Participates in Gene Expression Control during the Early Development of the Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas
Genes 2019, 10(9), 695; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10090695 - 10 Sep 2019
Abstract
Histone methylation patterns are important epigenetic regulators of mammalian development, notably through stem cell identity maintenance by chromatin remodeling and transcriptional control of pluripotency genes. But, the implications of histone marks are poorly understood in distant groups outside vertebrates and ecdysozoan models. However, [...] Read more.
Histone methylation patterns are important epigenetic regulators of mammalian development, notably through stem cell identity maintenance by chromatin remodeling and transcriptional control of pluripotency genes. But, the implications of histone marks are poorly understood in distant groups outside vertebrates and ecdysozoan models. However, the development of the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas is under the strong epigenetic influence of DNA methylation, and Jumonji histone-demethylase orthologues are highly expressed during C. gigas early life. This suggests a physiological relevance of histone methylation regulation in oyster development, raising the question of functional conservation of this epigenetic pathway in lophotrochozoan. Quantification of histone methylation using fluorescent ELISAs during oyster early life indicated significant variations in monomethyl histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me), an overall decrease in H3K9 mono- and tri-methylations, and in H3K36 methylations, respectively, whereas no significant modification could be detected in H3K27 methylation. Early in vivo treatment with the JmjC-specific inhibitor Methylstat induced hypermethylation of all the examined histone H3 lysines and developmental alterations as revealed by scanning electronic microscopy. Using microarrays, we identified 376 genes that were differentially expressed under methylstat treatment, which expression patterns could discriminate between samples as indicated by principal component analysis. Furthermore, Gene Ontology revealed that these genes were related to processes potentially important for embryonic stages such as binding, cell differentiation and development. These results suggest an important physiological significance of histone methylation in the oyster embryonic and larval life, providing, to our knowledge, the first insights into epigenetic regulation by histone methylation in lophotrochozoan development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epigenetics and Adaptation)
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Open AccessArticle
Temporal Dynamics of DNA Methylation Patterns in Response to Rearing Juvenile Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in a Hatchery versus Simulated Stream Environment
Genes 2019, 10(5), 356; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10050356 - 09 May 2019
Abstract
Genetic selection is often implicated as the underlying cause of heritable phenotypic differences between hatchery and wild populations of steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) that also differ in lifetime fitness. Developmental plasticity, which can also affect fitness, may be mediated by epigenetic [...] Read more.
Genetic selection is often implicated as the underlying cause of heritable phenotypic differences between hatchery and wild populations of steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) that also differ in lifetime fitness. Developmental plasticity, which can also affect fitness, may be mediated by epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. Our previous study identified significant differences in DNA methylation between adult hatchery- and natural-origin steelhead from the same population that could not be distinguished by DNA sequence variation. In the current study, we tested whether hatchery-rearing conditions can influence patterns of DNA methylation in steelhead with known genetic backgrounds, and assessed the stability of these changes over time. Eyed-embryos from 22 families of Methow River steelhead were split across traditional hatchery tanks or a simulated stream-rearing environment for 8 months, followed by a second year in a common hatchery tank environment. Family assignments were made using a genetic parentage analysis to account for relatedness among individuals. DNA methylation patterns were examined in the liver, a relatively homogeneous organ that regulates metabolic processes and somatic growth, of juveniles at two time points: after eight months of rearing in either a tank or stream environment and after a subsequent year of rearing in a common tank environment. Further, we analyzed DNA methylation in the sperm of mature 2-year-old males from the earlier described treatments to assess the potential of environmentally-induced changes to be passed to offspring. Hepatic DNA methylation changes in response to hatchery versus stream-rearing in yearling fish were substantial, but few persisted after a second year in the tank environment. However, the early rearing environment appeared to affect how fish responded to developmental and environmental signals during the second year since novel DNA methylation differences were identified in the livers of hatchery versus stream-reared fish after a year of common tank rearing. Furthermore, we found profound differences in DNA methylation due to age, irrespective of rearing treatment. This could be due to smoltification associated changes in liver physiology after the second year of rearing. Although few rearing-treatment effects were observed in the sperm methylome, strong family effects were observed. These data suggest limited potential for intergenerational changes, but highlight the importance of understanding the effects of kinship among studied individuals in order to properly analyze and interpret DNA methylation data in natural populations. Our work is the first to study family effects and temporal dynamics of DNA methylation patterns in response to hatchery-rearing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epigenetics and Adaptation)
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing Global DNA Methylation Changes Associated with Plasticity in Seven Highly Inbred Lines of Snapdragon Plants (Antirrhinum majus)
Genes 2019, 10(4), 256; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10040256 - 28 Mar 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Genetic and epigenetic variations are commonly known to underlie phenotypic plastic responses to environmental cues. However, the role of epigenetic variation in plastic responses harboring ecological significance in nature remains to be assessed. The shade avoidance response (SAR) of plants is one of [...] Read more.
Genetic and epigenetic variations are commonly known to underlie phenotypic plastic responses to environmental cues. However, the role of epigenetic variation in plastic responses harboring ecological significance in nature remains to be assessed. The shade avoidance response (SAR) of plants is one of the most prevalent examples of phenotypic plasticity. It is a phenotypic syndrome including stem elongation and multiple other traits. Its ecological significance is widely acknowledged, and it can be adaptive in the presence of competition for light. Underlying genes and pathways were identified, but evidence for its epigenetic basis remains scarce. We used a proven and accessible approach at the population level and compared global DNA methylation between plants exposed to regular light and three different magnitudes of shade in seven highly inbred lines of snapdragon plants (Antirrhinum majus) grown in a greenhouse. Our results brought evidence of a strong SAR syndrome for which magnitude did not vary between lines. They also brought evidence that its magnitude was not associated with the global DNA methylation percentage for five of the six traits under study. The magnitude of stem elongation was significantly associated with global DNA demethylation. We discuss the limits of this approach and why caution must be taken with such results. In-depth approaches at the DNA sequence level will be necessary to better understand the molecular basis of the SAR syndrome. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epigenetics and Adaptation)
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Open AccessArticle
DNA Methylation Patterns in the Round Goby Hypothalamus Support an On-The-Spot Decision Scenario for Territorial Behavior
Genes 2019, 10(3), 219; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10030219 - 14 Mar 2019
Abstract
The question as to how early life experiences are stored on a molecular level and affect traits later in life is highly topical in ecology, medicine, and epigenetics. In this study, we use a fish model to investigate whether DNA methylation mediates early [...] Read more.
The question as to how early life experiences are stored on a molecular level and affect traits later in life is highly topical in ecology, medicine, and epigenetics. In this study, we use a fish model to investigate whether DNA methylation mediates early life experiences and predetermines a territorial male reproductive phenotype. In fish, adult reproductive phenotypes frequently depend on previous life experiences and are often associated with distinct morphological traits. DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism which is both sensitive to environmental conditions and stably inherited across cell divisions. We therefore investigate early life predisposition in the round goby Neogobius melanostomus by growth back-calculations and then study DNA methylation by MBD-Seq in the brain region controlling vertebrate reproductive behavior, the hypothalamus. We find a link between the territorial reproductive phenotype and high growth rates in the first year of life. However, hypothalamic DNA methylation patterns reflect the current behavioral status independently of early life experiences. Together, our data suggest a non-predetermination scenario in the round goby, in which indeterminate males progress to a non-territorial status in the spawning season, and in which some males then assume a specialized territorial phenotype if current conditions are favorable. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epigenetics and Adaptation)
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Open AccessArticle
DNA Methylation Patterns in the Social Spider, Stegodyphus dumicola
Genes 2019, 10(2), 137; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10020137 - 12 Feb 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
Variation in DNA methylation patterns among genes, individuals, and populations appears to be highly variable among taxa, but our understanding of the functional significance of this variation is still incomplete. We here present the first whole genome bisulfite sequencing of a chelicerate species, [...] Read more.
Variation in DNA methylation patterns among genes, individuals, and populations appears to be highly variable among taxa, but our understanding of the functional significance of this variation is still incomplete. We here present the first whole genome bisulfite sequencing of a chelicerate species, the social spider Stegodyphus dumicola. We show that DNA methylation occurs mainly in CpG context and is concentrated in genes. This is a pattern also documented in other invertebrates. We present RNA sequence data to investigate the role of DNA methylation in gene regulation and show that, within individuals, methylated genes are more expressed than genes that are not methylated and that methylated genes are more stably expressed across individuals than unmethylated genes. Although no causal association is shown, this lends support for the implication of DNA CpG methylation in regulating gene expression in invertebrates. Differential DNA methylation between populations showed a small but significant correlation with differential gene expression. This is consistent with a possible role of DNA methylation in local adaptation. Based on indirect inference of the presence and pattern of DNA methylation in chelicerate species whose genomes have been sequenced, we performed a comparative phylogenetic analysis. We found strong evidence for exon DNA methylation in the horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus and in all spider and scorpion species, while most Parasitiformes and Acariformes species seem to have lost DNA methylation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epigenetics and Adaptation)
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Open AccessArticle
Environmental Change-Dependent Inherited Epigenetic Response
Genes 2019, 10(1), 4; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10010004 - 21 Dec 2018
Abstract
Epigenetic modifications are a mechanism conveying environmental information to subsequent generations via parental germ lines. Research on epigenetic responses to environmental changes in wild mammals has been widely neglected, as well as studies that compare responses to changes in different environmental factors. Here, [...] Read more.
Epigenetic modifications are a mechanism conveying environmental information to subsequent generations via parental germ lines. Research on epigenetic responses to environmental changes in wild mammals has been widely neglected, as well as studies that compare responses to changes in different environmental factors. Here, we focused on the transmission of DNA methylation changes to naive male offspring after paternal exposure to either diet (~40% less protein) or temperature increase (10 °C increased temperature). Because both experiments focused on the liver as the main metabolic and thermoregulation organ, we were able to decipher if epigenetic changes differed in response to different environmental changes. Reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS) revealed differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in annotated genomic regions in sons sired before (control) and after the fathers’ treatments. We detected both a highly specific epigenetic response dependent on the environmental factor that had changed that was reflected in genes involved in specific metabolic pathways, and a more general response to changes in outer stimuli reflected by epigenetic modifications in a small subset of genes shared between both responses. Our results indicated that fathers prepared their offspring for specific environmental changes by paternally inherited epigenetic modifications, suggesting a strong paternal contribution to adaptive processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epigenetics and Adaptation)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
On the Importance to Acknowledge Transposable Elements in Epigenomic Analyses
Genes 2019, 10(4), 258; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10040258 - 31 Mar 2019
Abstract
Eukaryotic genomes comprise a large proportion of repeated sequences, an important fraction of which are transposable elements (TEs). TEs are mobile elements that have a significant impact on genome evolution and on gene functioning. Although some TE insertions could provide adaptive advantages to [...] Read more.
Eukaryotic genomes comprise a large proportion of repeated sequences, an important fraction of which are transposable elements (TEs). TEs are mobile elements that have a significant impact on genome evolution and on gene functioning. Although some TE insertions could provide adaptive advantages to species, transposition is a highly mutagenic event that has to be tightly controlled to ensure its viability. Genomes have evolved sophisticated mechanisms to control TE activity, the most important being epigenetic silencing. However, the epigenetic control of TEs can also affect genes located nearby that can become epigenetically regulated. It has been proposed that the combination of TE mobilization and the induced changes in the epigenetic landscape could allow a rapid phenotypic adaptation to global environmental changes. In this review, we argue the crucial need to take into account the repeated part of genomes when studying the global impact of epigenetic modifications on an organism. We emphasize more particularly why it is important to carefully consider TEs and what bioinformatic tools can be used to do so. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epigenetics and Adaptation)
Open AccessReview
Novel Insights into Plant Genome Evolution and Adaptation as Revealed through Transposable Elements and Non-Coding RNAs in Conifers
Genes 2019, 10(3), 228; https://doi.org/10.3390/genes10030228 - 18 Mar 2019
Abstract
Plant genomes are punctuated by repeated bouts of proliferation of transposable elements (TEs), and these mobile bursts are followed by silencing and decay of most of the newly inserted elements. As such, plant genomes reflect TE-related genome expansion and shrinkage. In general, these [...] Read more.
Plant genomes are punctuated by repeated bouts of proliferation of transposable elements (TEs), and these mobile bursts are followed by silencing and decay of most of the newly inserted elements. As such, plant genomes reflect TE-related genome expansion and shrinkage. In general, these genome activities involve two mechanisms: small RNA-mediated epigenetic repression and long-term mutational decay and deletion, that is, genome-purging. Furthermore, the spatial relationships between TE insertions and genes are an important force in shaping gene regulatory networks, their downstream metabolic and physiological outputs, and thus their phenotypes. Such cascading regulations finally set up a fitness differential among individuals. This brief review demonstrates factual evidence that unifies most updated conceptual frameworks covering genome size, architecture, epigenetic reprogramming, and gene expression. It aims to give an overview of the impact that TEs may have on genome and adaptive evolution and to provide novel insights into addressing possible causes and consequences of intimidating genome sizes (20–30 Gb) in a taxonomic group, conifers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Epigenetics and Adaptation)
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