skip to main content

Title: Epigenetic inheritance of DNA methylation changes in fish living in hydrogen sulfide–rich springs
Environmental factors can promote phenotypic variation through alterations in the epigenome and facilitate adaptation of an organism to the environment. Although hydrogen sulfide is toxic to most organisms, the fish Poecilia mexicana has adapted to survive in environments with high levels that exceed toxicity thresholds by orders of magnitude. Epigenetic changes in response to this environmental stressor were examined by assessing DNA methylation alterations in red blood cells, which are nucleated in fish. Males and females were sampled from sulfidic and nonsulfidic natural environments; individuals were also propagated for two generations in a nonsulfidic laboratory environment. We compared epimutations between the sexes as well as field and laboratory populations. For both the wild-caught (F0) and the laboratory-reared (F2) fish, comparing the sulfidic and nonsulfidic populations revealed evidence for significant differential DNA methylation regions (DMRs). More importantly, there was over 80% overlap in DMRs across generations, suggesting that the DMRs have stable generational inheritance in the absence of the sulfidic environment. This is an example of epigenetic generational stability after the removal of an environmental stressor. The DMR-associated genes were related to sulfur toxicity and metabolic processes. These findings suggest that adaptation of P. mexicana to sulfidic environments in southern Mexico more » may, in part, be promoted through epigenetic DNA methylation alterations that become stable and are inherited by subsequent generations independent of the environment. « less
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Background and Aims

    Environments experienced by both parents and offspring influence progeny traits, but the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate the balance of parental vs. progeny control of progeny phenotypes are not known. We tested whether DNA methylation in parents and/or progeny mediates responses to environmental cues experienced in both generations.


    Using Arabidopsis thaliana, we manipulated parental and progeny DNA methylation both chemically, via 5-azacytidine, and genetically, via mutants of methyltransferase genes, then measured progeny germination responses to simulated canopy shade in parental and progeny generations.

    Key Results

    We first found that germination of offspring responded to parental but not seed demethylation. We further found that parental demethylation reversed the parental effect of canopy in seeds with low (Cvi-1) to intermediate (Col) dormancy, but it obliterated the parental effect in seeds with high dormancy (Cvi-0). Demethylation did so by either suppressing germination of seeds matured under white-light (Cvi-1) or under canopy (Cvi-0), or by increasing the germination of seeds matured under canopy (Col). Disruption of parental methylation also prevented seeds from responding to their own light environment in one genotype (Cvi-0, most dormant), but it enabled seeds to respond to their own environment in another genotype (Cvi-1, least dormant). Using mutant genotypes,more »we found that both CG and non-CG DNA methylation were involved in parental effects on seed germination.


    Parental methylation state influences seed germination more strongly than does the progeny’s own methylation state, and it influences how seeds respond to environments of parents and progeny in a genotype-specific manner.

    « less
  2. Abstract

    Exposure to environmental toxicants during preconception has been shown to affect offspring health and epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation are hypothesized to be involved in adverse outcomes. However, studies addressing the effects of exposure to environmental toxicants during preconception on epigenetic changes in gametes are limited. The objective of this study is to determine the effect of preconceptional exposure to a dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyl (3,3′,4,4′,5-pentachlorobiphenyl [PCB126]) on DNA methylation and gene expression in testis. Adult zebrafish were exposed to 3 and 10 nM PCB126 for 24 h and testis tissue was sampled at 7 days postexposure for histology, DNA methylation, and gene expression profiling. Reduced representation bisulfite sequencing revealed 37 and 92 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in response to 3 and 10 nM PCB126 exposures, respectively. Among them, 19 DMRs were found to be common between both PCB126 treatment groups. Gene ontology (GO) analysis of DMRs revealed that enrichment of terms such as RNA processing, iron-sulfur cluster assembly, and gluconeogenesis. Gene expression profiling showed differential expression of 40 and 1621 genes in response to 3 and 10 nM PCB126 exposures, respectively. GO analysis of differentially expressed genes revealed enrichment of terms related to xenobiotic metabolism, oxidative stress, and immune function. There is nomore »overlap in the GO terms or individual genes between DNA methylation and RNA sequencing results, but functionally many of the altered pathways have been shown to cause spermatogenic defects.

    « less
  3. Epigenetics has attracted considerable attention with respect to its potential value in many areas of agricultural production, particularly under conditions where the environment can be manipulated or natural variation exists. Here we introduce key concepts and definitions of epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, histone modifications and non-coding RNA, review the current understanding of epigenetics in both fish and shellfish, and propose key areas of aquaculture where epigenetics could be applied. The first key area is environmental manipulation, where the intention is to induce an ‘epigenetic memory’ either within or between generations to produce a desired phenotype. The second key area is epigenetic selection, which, alone or combined with genetic selection, may increase the reliability of producing animals with desired phenotypes. Based on aspects of life history and husbandry practices in aquaculture species, the application of epigenetic knowledge could significantly affect the productivity and sustainability of aquaculture practices. Conversely, clarifying the role of epigenetic mechanisms in aquaculture species may upend traditional assumptions about selection practices. Ultimately, there are still many unanswered questions regarding how epigenetic mechanisms might be leveraged in aquaculture.

  4. Extreme environments test the limits of life; yet, some organisms thrive in harsh conditions. Extremophile lineages inspire questions about how organisms can tolerate physiochemical stressors and whether the repeated colonization of extreme environments is facilitated by predictable and repeatable evolutionary innovations. We identified the mechanistic basis underlying convergent evolution of tolerance to hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S)—a toxicant that impairs mitochondrial function—across evolutionarily independent lineages of a fish ( Poecilia mexicana , Poeciliidae) from H 2 S-rich springs. Using comparative biochemical and physiological analyses, we found that mitochondrial function is maintained in the presence of H 2 S in sulfide spring P. mexicana but not ancestral lineages from nonsulfidic habitats due to convergent adaptations in the primary toxicity target and a major detoxification enzyme. Genome-wide local ancestry analyses indicated that convergent evolution of increased H 2 S tolerance in different populations is likely caused by a combination of selection on standing genetic variation and de novo mutations. On a macroevolutionary scale, H 2 S tolerance in 10 independent lineages of sulfide spring fishes across multiple genera of Poeciliidae is correlated with the convergent modification and expression changes in genes associated with H 2 S toxicity and detoxification. Our results demonstratemore »that the modification of highly conserved physiological pathways associated with essential mitochondrial processes mediates tolerance to physiochemical stress. In addition, the same pathways, genes, and—in some instances—codons are implicated in H 2 S adaptation in lineages that span 40 million years of evolution.« less
  5. Abstract A major challenge in modern biology is understanding how the effects of short-term biological responses influence long-term evolutionary adaptation, defined as a genetically determined increase in fitness to novel environments. This is particularly important in globally important microbes experiencing rapid global change, due to their influence on food webs, biogeochemical cycles, and climate. Epigenetic modifications like methylation have been demonstrated to influence short-term plastic responses, which ultimately impact long-term adaptive responses to environmental change. However, there remains a paucity of empirical research examining long-term methylation dynamics during environmental adaptation in nonmodel, ecologically important microbes. Here, we show the first empirical evidence in a marine prokaryote for long-term m5C methylome modifications correlated with phenotypic adaptation to CO2, using a 7-year evolution experiment (1,000+ generations) with the biogeochemically important marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium. We identify m5C methylated sites that rapidly changed in response to high (750 µatm) CO2 exposure and were maintained for at least 4.5 years of CO2 selection. After 7 years of CO2 selection, however, m5C methylation levels that initially responded to high-CO2 returned to ancestral, ambient CO2 levels. Concurrently, high-CO2 adapted growth and N2 fixation rates remained significantly higher than those of ambient CO2 adapted cell lines irrespective of CO2 concentration,more »a trend consistent with genetic assimilation theory. These data demonstrate the maintenance of CO2-responsive m5C methylation for 4.5 years alongside phenotypic adaptation before returning to ancestral methylation levels. These observations in a globally distributed marine prokaryote provide critical evolutionary insights into biogeochemically important traits under global change.« less