Epigenetic adaptation of stickleback to marine and freshwater conditions

Not random mutations but epigenetic adaptation of stickleback to marine and freshwater conditions


Excerpt from abstract: "The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) represents a convenient model to study microevolution - adaptation to a freshwater environment. While genetic adaptations to freshwater environments are well-studied, epigenetic adaptations have attracted little attention. In this work, we investigated the role of DNA methylation in the adaptation of the marine stickleback population to freshwater conditions. DNA methylation profiling was performed in marine and freshwater populations of sticklebacks, as well as in marine sticklebacks placed into a freshwater environment and freshwater sticklebacks placed into seawater. We showed that the DNA methylation profile after placing a marine stickleback into fresh water partially converged to that of a freshwater stickleback.

For six genes including ATP4A ion pump and NELL1, believed to be involved in skeletal ossification, we demonstrated similar changes in DNA methylation in both evolutionary and short-term adaptation. This suggested that an immediate epigenetic response to freshwater conditions can be maintained in freshwater population. Interestingly, we observed enhanced epigenetic plasticity in freshwater sticklebacks that may serve as a compensatory regulatory mechanism for the lack of genetic variation in the freshwater population.

For the first time, we demonstrated that genes encoding ion channels KCND3, CACNA1FB, ATP4A were differentially methylated between the marine and the freshwater populations. Other genes encoding ion channels were previously reported to be under selection in freshwater populations. Nevertheless, the genes that harbor genetic and epigenetic changes were not the same, suggesting that epigenetic adaptation is a complementary mechanism to selection of genetic variants favorable for freshwater environment."

My comment: Epigenetic adaptation is not a complementary mechanism for stickleback adaptations. All changes in organisms are based on these designed epigenetic mechanisms, not random mutations or selection. A cell without epigenetic information layers is an undifferentiated stem cell. There is no such a thing as mutation driven evolution. Don't get lost.