Infection with a Virulent Strain of Wolbachia Disrupts Genome Wide-Patterns of Cytosine Methylation in the Mosquito Aedes aegypti

Yixin H. Ye, Megan Woolfit, Gavin A. Huttley, Edwige Rancès, Eric P. Caragata, Jean Popovici, Scott L. O'Neill, Elizabeth A. McGraw

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Background:Cytosine methylation is one of several reversible epigenetic modifications of DNA that allow a greater flexibility in the relationship between genotype and phenotype. Methylation in the simplest models dampens gene expression by modifying regions of DNA critical for transcription factor binding. The capacity to methylate DNA is variable in the insects due to diverse histories of gene loss and duplication of DNA methylases. Mosquitoes like Drosophila melanogaster possess only a single methylase, DNMT2.Description:Here we characterise the methylome of the mosquito Aedes aegypti and examine its relationship to transcription and test the effects of infection with a virulent strain of the endosymbiont Wolbachia on the stability of methylation patterns.Conclusion:We see that methylation in the A. aegypti genome is associated with reduced transcription and is most common in the promoters of genes relating to regulation of transcription and metabolism. Similar gene classes are also methylated in aphids and honeybees, suggesting either conservation or convergence of methylation patterns. In addition to this evidence of evolutionary stability, we also show that infection with the virulent wMelPop Wolbachia strain induces additional methylation and demethylation events in the genome. While most of these changes seem random with respect to gene function and have no detected effect on transcription, there does appear to be enrichment of genes associated with membrane function. Given that Wolbachia lives within a membrane-bound vacuole of host origin and retains a large number of genes for transporting host amino acids, inorganic ions and ATP despite a severely reduced genome, these changes might represent an evolved strategy for manipulating the host environments for its own gain. Testing for a direct link between these methylation changes and expression, however, will require study across a broader range of developmental stages and tissues with methods that detect splice variants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere66482
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 19 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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