DNA methylation as a mechanism to increase adaptive potential in invertebrates
Funded NSF Proposal
Summary: The study of DNA methylation is providing remarkable insight into gene regulation and the complex mechanisms associated with phenotypic variation and adaptation to environmental change. DNA methylation is found from prokaryotes to humans, however there is dramatic diversity in characteristics - from species where this phenomenon is absent, to cases where the genome is globally methylated. Although DNA methylation is considered an evolutionarily ancient epigenetic mechanism, the role and evolutionary significance of this process is not fully understood. The overall goal of the research is to use the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, as a model system to evaluate the potentially transformative theory that the absence of germline methylation in genes involved in adapting to changing conditions has evolved to increase adaptive potential in organisms exposed to heterogeneous environments. The Pacific oyster is an excellent model to use for the proposed project because it is one of only a few invertebrates where DNA methylation has been described, there are considerable genomic resources available, and the Pacific oyster is a key bioindicator species that can provide us with a better understanding of how species respond to fluctuating environmental conditions.
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