Epigenetics underpins phenotypic plasticity of protandrous sex change in fish

Budd, Alyssa M., Robins, Julie B., Whybird, Olivia, and Jerry, Dean R. (2022) Epigenetics underpins phenotypic plasticity of protandrous sex change in fish. Ecology and Evolution, 12 (3). e8730.

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Phenotypic plasticity is an important driver of species resilience. Often mediated by epigenetic changes, phenotypic plasticity enables individual genotypes to express variable phenotypes in response to environmental change. Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) are a protandrous (male-first) sequential hermaphrodite that exhibits plasticity in length-at-sex change between geographic regions. This plasticity is likely to be mediated by changes in DNA methylation (DNAm), a well-studied epigenetic modification. To investigate the relationships between length, sex, and DNAm in a sequential hermaphrodite, here, we compare DNAm in four conserved vertebrate sex-determining genes in male and female barramundi of differing lengths from three geographic regions of northern Australia. Barramundi first mature as male and later sex change to female upon the attainment of a larger body size; however, a general pattern of increasing female-specific DNAm markers with increasing length was not observed. Significant differences in DNAm between males and females of similar lengths suggest that female-specific DNAm arises rapidly during sex change, rather than gradually with fish growth. The findings also reveal that region-specific differences in length-at-sex change are accompanied by differences in DNAm and are consistent with variability in remotely sensed sea temperature and salinity. Together, these findings provide the first in situ evidence for epigenetically and environmentally mediated sex change in a protandrous hermaphrodite and offer significant insight into the molecular and ecological processes governing the marked and unique plasticity of sex in fish.

Item ID: 74583
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Keywords: DNA methylation, ecological adaptation, phenotypic plasticity, sex change, teleost, temperature
Copyright Information: © 2022 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC LP130100007
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2022 03:06
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3005 Fisheries sciences > 300504 Fish physiology and genetics @ 100%
SEO Codes: 10 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 1003 Fisheries - wild caught > 100305 Wild caught fin fish (excl. tuna) @ 50%
10 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 1002 Fisheries - aquaculture > 100202 Aquaculture fin fish (excl. tuna) @ 50%
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