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Title: Relative roles of genetic and epigenetic variation on the ecology and evolution of mangrove killifishes (Kryptolebias spp.)
Author: Filho, Waldir
ISNI:       0000 0004 9357 5152
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2019
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The field of ecological epigenetics aims to understand the implications of epigenetic modifications in adaptation, inheritance and ultimately, evolution. Many questions remain open within ecological epigenetics, in particular, how epigenetic variation is influenced by genetic background, the extent of environmentally-induced epigenetic variants, as well as its degree of heritability. This thesis used the unique diversity of mating systems present in the killifish genus Kryptolebias to investigate how genetic and environmental variation shape epigenetic variation in animals. Genetic and epigenetic structure was investigated in natural populations of K. hermaphroditus in northeast Brazil, with the species being confirmed as the second example of mixed-mating system in vertebrates. Cytosine methylation was largely influenced by genetic background. However, within-populations, when individuals were more genetically similar, DNA methylation was mostly affected by parasites. Kryptolebias ocellatus, here confirmed as an outcrossing-only androdioecious species, showed deep genetic structure in southeast Brazil. Hybridisation between K. ocellatus and the predominantly selfing K. hermaphroditus was uncovered, representing the first example of hybridisation between species with different mating systems in vertebrates. Hybrids had intermediate patterns of cytosine methylation relatively to the parental species, with important biological processes being potentially misregulated. Environmental enrichment was shown to affect brain cytosine methylation patterns in two inbred strains of K. marmoratus, however genetic background had a stronger effect than environmental variation. Commonly-affected epialleles between genotypes predominantly showed a genotype-by-environment reaction norm, suggesting that exclusively environmentally-induced epialleles may be rare. Intergenerationally, parental activity affected offspring activity, and a limited number of putative intergenerational epialleles were identified. This is the first example of behavioural parental effects induced by environmental enrichment in fish. These findings show that genetic background has a prominent effect and must be take into account when evaluating the evolutionary potential of cytosine methylation variation. In addition, inheritance of environmentally-induced cytosine methylation epialleles may be limited, with other epigenetic mechanisms, such as microRNAs, being more likely to escape epigenetic reprogramming and transmit epigenetically-induced parental effects.
Supervisor: Consuegra, Sofia ; Garcia de Leaniz, Carlos Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral