New publication: Cytosine methylation patterns suggest a role of methylation in plastic and adaptive responses to temperature in European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) populations

By Tiina Sävilammi, Spiros Papakostas, Erica H. Leder, Asbjørn Vøllestad, Paul V. Debes, and Craig R. Primmer in Epigenetics

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Temperature is a key environmental parameter affecting both the phenotypes and distributions of organisms, particularly ectotherms. Rapid organismal responses to thermal environmental changes have been described for several ectotherms; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms often remain unclear. Here, we studied whole genome cytosine methylation patterns of European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) embryos from five populations with contemporary adaptations of early life history traits at either ‘colder’ or ‘warmer’ spawning grounds. We reared fish embryos in a common garden experiment using two temperatures that resembled the ‘colder’ and ‘warmer’ conditions of the natal natural environments. Genome-wide methylation patterns were similar in populations originating from colder thermal origin subpopulations, whereas single nucleotide polymorphisms uncovered from the same data identified strong population structure among isolated populations, but limited structure among interconnected populations. This was surprising because the previously studied gene expression response among populations was mostly plastic, and mainly influenced by the developmental temperature. These findings support the hypothesis of the magnified role of epigenetic mechanisms in modulating plasticity. The abundance of consistently changing methylation loci between two warmer-to-colder thermal origin population pairs suggests that local adaptation has shaped the observed methylation patterns. The dynamic nature of the methylomes was further highlighted by genome-wide and site-specific plastic responses. Our findings support both the presence of a plastic response in a subset of CpG loci, and the evolutionary role of methylation divergence between populations adapting to contrasting thermal environments.

Published online: 30 Jul 2020
DOI: 10.1080/15592294.2020.1795597
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Tiina Sävilammi, Spiros Papakostas, Erica H. Leder, Asbjørn Vøllestad*, Paul V. Debes, and Craig R. Primmer

* Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. See the publication webpage for full author information.

Tags: Epigenetics;
Published Sep. 1, 2020 10:15 AM - Last modified Sep. 1, 2020 10:15 AM