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Plasticity across levels: relating epigenomic, transcriptomic, and phenotypic responses to osmotic stress in a halotolerant microalga

Citation

Leung, Christelle; Grulois, Daphne; Chevin, Luis-Miguel (2022), Plasticity across levels: relating epigenomic, transcriptomic, and phenotypic responses to osmotic stress in a halotolerant microalga, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.3ffbg79m0

Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity, the ability of a given genotype to produce alternative phenotypes in response to its environment of development, is an important mechanism for coping with variable environments. While the mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity are diverse, their relative contributions need to be investigated quantitatively to better understand the evolvability of plasticity across biological levels. This requires relating plastic responses of the epigenome, transcriptome, and organismal phenotype, and investigating how they vary with the genotype. Here we carried out this approach for responses to osmotic stress in Dunaliella salina, a green microalga that is a model organism for salinity tolerance. We compared two strains that show markedly different demographic responses to osmotic stress, and showed that these phenotypic responses involve strain- and environment-specific variation in gene expression levels, but a relative low - albeit significant - effect of strain × environment interaction. We also found an important genotype effect on the genome-wide methylation pattern, but little contribution from environmental conditions to the latter. However, we did detect a significant marginal effect of epigenetic variation on gene expression, beyond the influence of genetic differences on epigenetic state, and we showed that hypomethylated regions are correlated with higher gene expression. Our results indicate that epigenetic mechanisms are either not involved in the rapid plastic response to environmental change in this species, or involve only few changes in trans that are sufficient to trigger concerted changes in the expression of many genes, and phenotypic responses by multiple traits.

Funding

European Research Council

Fonds de recherche du Québec

Agence Nationale de la Recherche