Regulation of gene expression can occur via epigenetic effects as mediated by DNA methylation. The potential for epigenetic effects to be transmitted across generations, thus modulating phenotypic variation and affecting ecological and evolutionary processes, is increasingly appreciated. However, the study of variation in epigenomes and inter-generational transmission of epigenetic alterations in wild populations is at its very infancy. We studied sex- and age-related variation in DNA methylation and parent-offspring resemblance in methylation profiles in the barn swallows. We focused on a class of highly conserved ‘clock’ genes (clock, cry1, per2, per3, timeless) relevant in the timing of activities of major ecological importance. In addition, we considerably expanded previous analyses on the relationship between methylation at clock genes and breeding date, a key fitness trait in barn swallows. We found positive assortative mating for methylation at one clock locus. Methylation varied between the nestling and the adult stage, and according to sex. Individuals with relatively high methylation as nestlings also had high methylation levels when adults. Extensive parent-nestling resemblance in methylation levels was observed. Occurrence of extra-pair fertilizations allowed to disclose evidence hinting at a prevalence of paternal germline or sperm quality effects over common environment effects in generating father-offspring resemblance in methylation. Finally, we found an association between methylation at the clock poly-Q region, but not at other loci, and breeding date. We thus provided evidence for sex-dependent variation and the first account of parent-offspring resemblance in methylation in any wild vertebrate. We also showed that epigenetics may influence phenotypic plasticity of timing of life cycle events, thus having a major impact on fitness.

Inter-generational resemblance of methylation levels at circadian genes and associations with phenology in the barn swallow / N. Saino, B. Albetti, R. Ambrosini, M. Caprioli, A. Costanzo, J. Mariani, M. Parolini, A. Romano, D. Rubolini, G. Formenti, L. Gianfranceschi, V. Bollati. - In: SCIENTIFIC REPORTS. - ISSN 2045-2322. - 9:1(2019 Dec). [10.1038/s41598-019-42798-3]

Inter-generational resemblance of methylation levels at circadian genes and associations with phenology in the barn swallow

N. Saino
Primo
;
B. Albetti
Secondo
;
R. Ambrosini;M. Caprioli;A. Costanzo;J. Mariani;M. Parolini;A. Romano;D. Rubolini;G. Formenti;L. Gianfranceschi
Penultimo
;
V. Bollati
Ultimo
2019

Abstract

Regulation of gene expression can occur via epigenetic effects as mediated by DNA methylation. The potential for epigenetic effects to be transmitted across generations, thus modulating phenotypic variation and affecting ecological and evolutionary processes, is increasingly appreciated. However, the study of variation in epigenomes and inter-generational transmission of epigenetic alterations in wild populations is at its very infancy. We studied sex- and age-related variation in DNA methylation and parent-offspring resemblance in methylation profiles in the barn swallows. We focused on a class of highly conserved ‘clock’ genes (clock, cry1, per2, per3, timeless) relevant in the timing of activities of major ecological importance. In addition, we considerably expanded previous analyses on the relationship between methylation at clock genes and breeding date, a key fitness trait in barn swallows. We found positive assortative mating for methylation at one clock locus. Methylation varied between the nestling and the adult stage, and according to sex. Individuals with relatively high methylation as nestlings also had high methylation levels when adults. Extensive parent-nestling resemblance in methylation levels was observed. Occurrence of extra-pair fertilizations allowed to disclose evidence hinting at a prevalence of paternal germline or sperm quality effects over common environment effects in generating father-offspring resemblance in methylation. Finally, we found an association between methylation at the clock poly-Q region, but not at other loci, and breeding date. We thus provided evidence for sex-dependent variation and the first account of parent-offspring resemblance in methylation in any wild vertebrate. We also showed that epigenetics may influence phenotypic plasticity of timing of life cycle events, thus having a major impact on fitness.
Settore BIO/07 - Ecologia
Settore BIO/18 - Genetica
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/653420
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