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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.560424

Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis reveals a conserved epigenetic response to seasonal environmental variation in the staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis Provisionally accepted The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon. Notify me

 Javier A. Rodríguez-Casariego1, Alex E. Mercado-Molina2,  Daniel Garcia-Souto3, Ivanna Ortiz2, 4,  Christian Lopes2,  Iliana B. Baums5, Alberto M. Sabat4 and  Jose M. Eirin-Lopez1*
  • 1Biological Sciences, Florida International University, United States
  • 2Florida International University, United States
  • 3University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  • 4University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico
  • 5Pennsylvania State University (PSU), United States

Epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation have been shown to participate in plastic responses to environmental change in a wide range of organisms, including scleractinian corals. Unfortunately, the current understanding of the links between environmental signals, epigenetic modifications, and the subsequent consequences for acclimatory phenotypic changes remain obscure. Such a knowledge gap extends also to the dynamic nature of epigenetic changes, hampering our ability to ascertain the magnitude and extent of these responses under natural conditions. The present work aims to shed light on these subjects by examining temporal changes in genome-wide patterns of DNA methylation in the staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis in the island of Culebra, PR. During a 17-month period, a total of 162 polymorphic loci were identified using Methylation-Sensitive Amplified Polymorphism (MSAP). Among them, 83 of these fragments displayed changes in DNA methylation changes that were significantly correlated to seasonal variation as determined mostly by changes in sea water temperature. Remarkably, the observed time-dependent change in DNA methylation patterns is consistent across coral genets, coral source sites and site-specific conditions studied. Overall, these results are consistent with a conserved epigenetic response to seasonal environmental variation. These findings highlight the importance of including seasonal variability into experimental designs investigating the role of epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation in responses to stress.

Keywords: staghorn coral, DNA Methylation, MSAP, stress response, temperature, Seasonality, epigenetics

Received: 08 May 2020; Accepted: 07 Sep 2020.

Copyright: © 2020 Rodríguez-Casariego, Mercado-Molina, Garcia-Souto, Ortiz, Lopes, Baums, Sabat and Eirin-Lopez. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jose M. Eirin-Lopez, Florida International University, Biological Sciences, Miami, 33199, Florida, United States,