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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. 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 betweenmore »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 may, in part, be promoted through epigenetic DNA methylation alterations that become stable and are inherited by subsequent generations independent of the environment.« less
  3. 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 sulfidemore »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 demonstrate 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