The epigenetic landscape of transgenerational acclimation to ocean warming

Epigenetic inheritance is a potential mechanism by which the environment in one generation can influence the performance of future generations1. Rapid climate change threatens the survival of many organisms; however, recent studies show that some species can adjust to climate-related stress when both parents and their offspring experience the same environmental change2,3. Whether such transgenerational acclimation could have an epigenetic basis is unknown. Here, by sequencing the liver genome, methylomes and transcriptomes of the coral reef fish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, exposed to current day (+0 °C) or future ocean temperatures (+3 °C) for one generation, two generations and incrementally across generations, we identified 2,467 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) and 1,870 associated genes that respond to higher temperatures within and between generations. Of these genes, 193 were significantly correlated to the transgenerationally acclimating phenotypic trait, aerobic scope, with functions in insulin response, energy homeostasis, mitochondrial activity, oxygen consumption and angiogenesis. These genes may therefore play a key role in restoring performance across generations in fish exposed to increased temperatures associated with climate change. Our study is the first to demonstrate a possible association between DNA methylation and transgenerational acclimation to climate change in a vertebrate.

Ryu T, Veilleux HD, Donelson JM, Munday PL, Ravasi T (2018) The epigenetic landscape of transgenerational acclimation to ocean warming. Nature Climate Change. Available:

This study was supported by the Competitive Research Funds OCRF-2014-CRG3-62140408 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. This project was completed under JCU Ethics A1233 and A1415. T.Ryu acknowledges the support from the APEC Climate Center. P.L.M. was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and P.L.M., H.D.V. and J.M.D. were supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. We thank C. Ortiz Alvarez and E. J. Steinig (James Cook University) for assisting genomic DNA extraction for methylome sequencing. Figures were enhanced by I. Gromicho, scientific illustrator at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

Springer Nature

Nature Climate Change


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  • [Bioproject]
    Title: Acanthochromis polyacanthus TranscriptomePublication Date: 2014-07-18. bioproject: PRJNA255544 Handle: 10754/666481

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