Two different epigenetic information channels in wild three-spined sticklebacks are involved in salinity adaptation.

Melanie J Heckwolf, Britta S Meyer, Robert Häsler, Marc P Höppner, Christophe Eizaguirre, Thorsten B H Reusch
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Sci Adv
Journal title long:
Science advances
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Epigenetic inheritance has been proposed to contribute to adaptation and acclimation via two information channels: (i) inducible epigenetic marks that enable transgenerational plasticity and (ii) noninducible epigenetic marks resulting from random epimutations shaped by selection. We studied both postulated channels by sequencing methylomes and genomes of Baltic three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) along a salinity cline. Wild populations differing in salinity tolerance revealed differential methylation (pop-DMS) at genes enriched for osmoregulatory processes. A two-generation experiment demonstrated that 62% of these pop-DMS were noninducible by salinity manipulation, suggesting that they are the result of either direct selection or associated genomic divergence at cis- or trans-regulatory sites. Two-thirds of the remaining inducible pop-DMS increased in similarity to patterns detected in wild populations from corresponding salinities. The level of similarity accentuated over consecutive generations, indicating a mechanism of transgenerational plasticity. While we can attribute natural DNA methylation patterns to the two information channels, their interplay with genomic variation in salinity adaptation is still unresolved.