you're reading...


Like Parent, Like Offspring: Fish Inherit Changes in DNA Methylation

References: Kelley, Joanna L.; Tobler, Michael; Beck, Daniel; Sadler-Riggleman, Ingrid; Quackenbush, Corey R.; Rodriguez, Lenin Arias; Skinner, Michael K. (2021). Epigenetic inheritance of DNA methylation changes in fish living in hydrogen sulfide-rich springs. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118, e2014929118.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2014929118

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s a running joke that people from Minnesota say 40°F feels warm and people from California say 50°F feels cold. Why is that so? Lots of previous research have asked a similar question, and the answer usually relates to adaption. Just like other animals, humans have to adapt to their environments. So, people living in Minnesota have adapted to colder weather and people in California have adapted to warmer weather. This is just one environmental factor of many impacting how animals live. Let us consider an extreme example: a salmon living in a stream near a large agricultural farm. This fish would have to deal with a plethora of chemicals entering the waters, including fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals (and others like them) significantly change the chemistry of the water, causing possibly harmful impacts on the salmon in question. Hypothetically when this farm drains these chemicals into the water, how do animals respond to these environmental changes? How can they make sure their offspring will survive these conditions too?

A picture of Poecilia Mexicana. Image Credit: Elfabso

A multi-national team of scientists from Washington State University, Kansas State University, and the Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco investigated how one species of fish survives its own harsh environmental conditions. The group compared two populations of the fish species Poecilia mexicana in Southern Mexico living in conditions with high or low hydrogen sulfide concentrations in the water. Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical existent in most animals, but it can be toxic at high amounts as it can interrupt your ability to make energy through the electron transport chain in the mitochondria. While this is true, some previous research has shown us that similar types of fish can live in high hydrogen sulfide conditions just fine. Today, the team examined how the population of fish living in high (usually toxic) hydrogen sulfide concentrations specifically survive.

What did they find?

A map of Southern Mexico where P. mexicana fish were investigated. Image Credit: Kelley et. al.

For some context, DNA, the code of genes that is passed down from parent to offspring, can be methylated. This process influences when and how that specific part of the DNA, or gene, will be utilized. The team discovered that DNA in red blood cells of P. mexicana fish (of both sexes) was methylated more often for fish living in high hydrogen sulfide conditions. More specifically, methylation occurred more often in 50% of areas in the DNA where methylation could occur (otherwise known as DNA Methylation Regions or DMR’s). Furthermore, parents and offspring had 80% of their DMR’s overlapping, so DNA methylation was inherited to help the next generation survive! Some of the genes highly methylated were ones relating to signaling, DNA transcription, cytoskeleton maintenance, metabolism, and receptors.

For a side-by-side comparison, the team brought fish into their laboratory to perform similar tests. The group kept one population in a high-hydrogen sulfide environment and one in a low-hydrogen sulfide environment. From the fish, the scientists discovered that there was only a 20% overlap in the DMR’s, meaning that there were large differences in fish DNA methylation when raised in the wild versus a lab. So, there are still a lot of complexities that control how these fish respond to their environment.

How did they do it?

The team performed all of these experiments themselves by raising fish in both a natural and laboratory setting. DNA was then collected from red blood cells, which were isolated from the blood of the fish, and analyzed. The group both checked the sequence of the DNA of what they collected as well as where on the DNA did methylation occur.

Why does it matter?

This investigation tells us a lot about the physiological behavior of fish living in harsh conditions, especially as aquatic environments become less hospitable due to environmental factors like climate change. Furthermore, this observation of inheritance of DNA methylation exhibits interesting possibilities about how organisms survive. With this knowledge, we can discern how animals can respond to their changing climate and keep surviving.


No comments yet.

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 12 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 1 year ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com