Parental effects influence offspring phenotypes through pre- and post-natal routes but little is known about their molecular basis, and therefore their adaptive significance. Epigenetic modifications, which control gene expression without changes in the DNA sequence and are influenced by the environment, may contribute to parental effects. We investigated the effects of environmental enrichment on the behaviour, metabolic rate and brain DNA methylation patterns of parents and offspring of the highly inbreed mangrove killifish (Kryptolebias marmoratus). Parental fish reared in enriched environments had lower cortisol levels, lower metabolic rates and were more active and neophobic than those reared in barren environments. They also differed in 1,854 methylated cytosines (DMCs). Offspring activity and neophobia were determined by the parental environment. Among the DMCs of the parents, 98 followed the same methylation patterns in the offspring, three of which were significantly influenced by parental environments irrespective of their own rearing environment. Our results suggest that parental environment influences the behaviour and, to some extent, the brain DNA methylation patterns of the offspring.
All methods are fully described in the material and methods section of the manuscript.