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Dryad

Genome-wide DNA methylation patterns harbor signatures of hatchling sex and past incubation temperature in a species with environmental sex determination

Cite this dataset

Bock, Samantha; Smaga, Christopher; McCoy, Jessica; Parrott, Benjamin (2022). Genome-wide DNA methylation patterns harbor signatures of hatchling sex and past incubation temperature in a species with environmental sex determination [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.cfxpnvx7p

Abstract

Conservation of thermally sensitive species depends on monitoring organismal and population-level responses to environmental change in real time. Epigenetic processes are increasingly recognized as key integrators of environmental conditions into developmentally plastic responses, and attendant epigenomic datasets hold potential for revealing cryptic phenotypes relevant to conservation efforts. Here, we demonstrate the utility of genome-wide DNA methylation (DNAm) patterns in the face of climate change for a group of especially vulnerable species, those with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). Due to their reliance on thermal cues during development to determine sexual fate, contemporary shifts in temperature are predicted to skew offspring sex ratios and ultimately destabilize sensitive populations. Using reduced-representation bisulfite sequencing, we profiled the DNA methylome in blood cells of hatchling American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), a TSD species lacking reliable markers of sexual dimorphism in early life-stages. We identified 120 sex-associated differentially methylated cytosines (DMCs; FDR < 0.1) in hatchlings incubated under a range of temperatures, as well as 707 unique temperature-associated DMCs. We further developed DNAm-based models capable of predicting hatchling sex with 100% accuracy (in 20 training samples and 4 test samples) and past incubation temperature with a mean absolute error of 1.2˚C (in 4 test samples) based on the methylation status of 20 and 24 loci, respectively. Though largely independent of epigenomic patterning occurring in the embryonic gonad during TSD, DNAm patterns in blood cells may serve as non-lethal markers of hatchling sex and past incubation conditions in conservation applications. These findings also raise intriguing questions regarding tissue-specific epigenomic patterning in the context of developmental plasticity. 

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: 1754903