Exploring DNA methylation patterns in copper exposed Folsomia candida and Enchytraeus crypticus

J.W. Noordhoek, Jasper Koning, Janine Mariën, J. Kamstra, M.J.B. Amorim, C.A.M. van Gestel, N.M. van Straalen, T.F.M. Roelofs

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    Accumulating evidence shows that epigenetics-mediated phenotypic plasticity plays a role in an organism’s ability to deal with environmental stress. However, to date, the role of epigenetic modifications in response to stress is hardly investigated in soil invertebrates. The main objective of this proof of principle study was to explore whether total cytosine and locus-specific CpG methylation are present in two important ecotoxicological model organisms, the springtail Folsomia candida and the potworm Enchytraeus crypticus, and if so, whether methylation patterns might change with increased toxicant exposure. LC-MS/MS analyses and bisulfite sequencing were performed to identify the CpG methylation state of the organisms. We show here, for the first time, a total level of 1.4% 5-methyl cytosine methylation in the genome of E. crypticus, and an absence of both total cytosine and locus-specific CpG methylation in F. candida. In E. crypticus, methylation of CpG sites was observed in the coding sequence (CDS) of the housekeeping gene Elongation Factor 1α, while the CDS of the stress inducible Heat Shock Protein 70 gene almost lacked methylation. This confirms previous observations that DNA methylation differs between housekeeping and stress-inducible genes in invertebrates. DNA methylation patterns in E. crypticus were not affected by exposure to copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate (CuSO4·5H2O) mixed in with LUFA 2.2 soil at sublethal effect concentrations that decreased reproduction by 10%, 20% and 50%. Although, differences in CpG methylation patterns between specific loci suggest a functional role for DNA methylation in E. crypticus, genome-wide bisulfite sequencing is needed to verify whether environmental stress affects this epigenetic hallmark.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)52-57
    Number of pages6
    Early online date13 Oct 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


    • DNA methylation
    • Enchytraeus crypticus
    • Folsomia candida
    • LC-MS
    • copper
    • invertebrate
    • Invertebrate
    • LC–MS
    • Copper


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