Journal Article

Functional Conservation of DNA Methylation in the Pea Aphid and the Honeybee

Brendan G. Hunt, Jennifer A. Brisson, Soojin V. Yi and Michael A. D. Goodisman

in Genome Biology and Evolution

Published on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution

Volume 2, issue , pages 719-728
Published in print January 2010 |
Published online September 2010 | e-ISSN: 1759-6653 | DOI:

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  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
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DNA methylation is a fundamental epigenetic mark known to have wide-ranging effects on gene regulation in a variety of animal taxa. Comparative genomic analyses can help elucidate the function of DNA methylation by identifying conserved features of methylated genes and other genomic regions. In this study, we used computational approaches to distinguish genes marked by heavy methylation from those marked by little or no methylation in the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum. We investigated if these two classes had distinct evolutionary histories and functional roles by conducting comparative analysis with the honeybee, Apis (Ap.) mellifera. We found that highly methylated orthologs in A. pisum and Ap. mellifera exhibited greater conservation of methylation status, suggesting that highly methylated genes in ancestral species may remain highly methylated over time. We also found that methylated genes tended to show different rates of evolution than unmethylated genes. In addition, genes targeted by methylation were enriched for particular biological processes that differed from those in relatively unmethylated genes. Finally, methylated genes were preferentially ubiquitously expressed among alternate phenotypes in both species, whereas genes lacking signatures of methylation were preferentially associated with condition-specific gene expression. Overall, our analyses support a conserved role for DNA methylation in insects with comparable methylation systems.

Keywords: comparative genomics; DNA methylation; epigenetics; insects; phenotypic plasticity; polyphenism

Journal Article.  5648 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Evolutionary Biology ; Genetics and Genomics

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