Pattern of DNA methylation in Daphnia: evolutionary perspective

Jouni Kvist, Camila Gonçalves Athanàsio, Omid Shams Solari, James Brown, John Colbourne, Michael E. Pfrender, Leda Mirbahai

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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DNA methylation is an evolutionary ancient epigenetic modification that is phylogenetically widespread. Comparative studies of the methylome across a diverse range of non-conventional and conventional model organisms is expected to help reveal how the landscape of DNA methylation and its functions have evolved. Here we explore the DNA methylation profile of two species of the crustacean Daphnia using whole genome bisulfite sequencing. We then compare our data with the methylomes of two insects and two mammals to achieve a better understanding of the function of DNA methylation in Daphnia. Using RNA-sequencing data for all six species, we investigate the correlation between DNA methylation and gene expression. DNA methylation in Daphnia is mainly enriched within the coding regions of genes, with the highest methylation levels observed at exons 2-4. In contrast, vertebrate genomes are globally methylated, and increase towards the highest methylation levels observed at exon 2, and maintained across the rest of the gene body. Although DNA methylation patterns differ among all species, their methylation profiles share a bimodal distribution across the genomes. Genes with low levels of CpG methylation and gene expression are mainly enriched for species specific genes. In contrast, genes associated with high methylated CpG sites are highly transcribed and evolutionary conserved across all species. Finally, the positive correlation between internal exons and gene expression potentially points to an evolutionary conserved mechanism, whereas the negative regulation of gene expression via methylation of promoters and exon 1 is potentially a secondary mechanism that has been evolved in vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1988-2007
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number8
Early online date30 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Epigenetics
  • gene expression
  • evolution
  • non-conventional models


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