Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


DGHOST — Result In Brief

Project ID: 629892
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: United Kingdom
Domain: Health

Environmental epigenetics in a clonal organism

By using drugs that interfere with DNA methylation processes EU-funded researchers have found that the sex of Daphnia is altered through these epigenetic changes. They also produced new tools to study epigenetic signatures for histone marks (ChiP-Seq and global methylation) in these eco responsive animals.
Environmental epigenetics in a clonal organism
Daphnia, due to its clonal mode of reproduction, is an ideal model organism to advance the new field of environmental epigenetic for future use in risk assessment. This environmental epigenetic concept is studied in a species where the nutrient deficiencies in multigenerational exposures is likely to have compounding effects. Epigenetics can also be the key gene regulatory mechanism for the organism’s environmentally induced sex-determination. Because Daphnia can reproduce both clonally and sexually, it provides a unique opportunity to disentangle the links among sex, nutrition, epigenetics and the environment.

The DGHOST (Ghosts in parthenogenetic daughters - epigenetic effects on clonal organisms can reveal the degree of phenotypic plasticity due to biotic cues) project used a well-established Daphnia model to understand how environmental cues translate into epigenetic changes that influence the sex of offspring.

To begin, the researchers performed a transplant experiment to observe how dietary changes influence Daphnia epigenetics. They developed and performed chromatin histone immunoprecipitation with massively parallel DNA sequencing (ChiP-Seq) on isoclonal lines that were maintained on nutritious and junk food on two different species for three generations. They then characterised the full epigenetic signatures of both isolates and noted changes in response to diet.

The DGHOST project also used chemicals known to influence specific epigenetic marks to test whether they could induce a sex change in Daphnia offspring. They tested butyrate as well as two anticancer drugs known to modulate epigenetic changes.

There was no clear effect from the butyrate treatment, but the other two compounds caused a shift in sex ratios towards more males. This proved the role of epigenetics in sex determination in Daphnia.

These findings will help researchers studying epigenetics to better understand the link among the environment, epigenetics and functional outcomes. The work may have an impact on human health research and risk assessment.

Related information


Environmental epigenetics, ChiP-seq, DNMT, Daphnia, environmental cues, DGHOST
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