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Title: Epigenetic potential: Promoter CpG content positively covaries with lifespan and is dependent on gene function among vertebrates

Variation in DNA methylation is associated with many ecological and life history traits, including niche breadth and lifespan. In vertebrates, DNA methylation occurs almost exclusively at “CpG” dinucleotides. Yet, how variation in the CpG content of the genome impacts organismal ecology has been largely overlooked. Here, we explore associations between promoter CpG content, lifespan and niche breadth among 60, amniote vertebrate species. The CpG content of 16 functionally relevant gene promoters was strongly, positively associated with lifespan in mammals and reptiles, but was not related to niche breadth. Possibly, by providing more substrate for CpG methylation to occur, high promoter CpG content extends the time taken for deleterious, age-related errors in CpG methylation patterns to accumulate, thereby extending lifespan. The association between CpG content and lifespan was driven by gene promoters with intermediate CpG enrichment—those known to be predisposed to regulation by methylation. Our findings provide novel support for the idea that high CpG content has been selected for in long-lived species to preserve the capacity for gene expression regulation by CpG methylation. Intriguingly, promoter CpG content was also dependent on gene function in our study; immune genes had on average 20% less CpG sites than metabolic- and stress-related more » genes.

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Journal Name:
Journal of Heredity
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p. 207-218
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  2. Abstract

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