Bimodal signatures of germline methylation are linked with gene expression plasticity in the coral Acropora millepora

Dixon, Groves B., Bay, Line K., and Matz, Mikhail V. (2014) Bimodal signatures of germline methylation are linked with gene expression plasticity in the coral Acropora millepora. BMC Genomics, 15. 1103. pp. 1-11.

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In invertebrates, genes belonging to dynamically regulated functional categories appear to be less methylated than "housekeeping" genes, suggesting that DNA methylation may modulate gene expression plasticity. To date, however, experimental evidence to support this hypothesis across different natural habitats has been lacking.


Gene expression profiles were generated from 30 pairs of genetically identical fragments of coral Acropora millepora reciprocally transplanted between distinct natural habitats for 3 months. Gene expression was analyzed in the context of normalized CpG content, a well-established signature of historical germline DNA methylation. Genes with weak methylation signatures were more likely to demonstrate differential expression based on both transplant environment and population of origin than genes with strong methylation signatures. Moreover, the magnitude of expression differences due to environment and population were greater for genes with weak methylation signatures.


Our results support a connection between differential germline methylation and gene expression flexibility across environments and populations. Studies of phylogenetically basal invertebrates such as corals will further elucidate the fundamental functional aspects of gene body methylation in Metazoa.

Item ID: 37541
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2164
Keywords: Acropora millepora, coral, DNA methylation, gene body methylation, gene expression, flexibility, plasticity
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© 2014 Dixon et al.; licensee BioMed Central.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Funders: National Science Foundation (USA) (NSF-USA), Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CoE Coral Reef Studies), Queensland Government
Projects and Grants: NSF-USA grant DEB-1054766
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2015 07:31
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0604 Genetics > 060408 Genomics @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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