DNA methylation reprogramming, TE derepression, and postzygotic isolation of nascent animal species

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Science Advances  16 Oct 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 10, eaaw1644
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw1644


The genomic shock hypothesis stipulates that the stress associated with divergent genome admixture can cause transposable element (TE) derepression, which could act as a postzygotic isolation mechanism. TEs affect gene structure, expression patterns, and chromosome organization and may have deleterious consequences when released. For these reasons, they are silenced by heterochromatin formation, which includes DNA methylation. Here, we show that a significant proportion of TEs are differentially methylated between the “dwarf” (limnetic) and the “normal” (benthic) whitefish, two nascent species that diverged some 15,000 generations ago within the Coregonus clupeaformis species complex. Moreover, TEs are overrepresented among loci that were demethylated in hybrids, indicative of their transcriptional derepression. These results are consistent with earlier studies in this system that revealed TE transcriptional derepression causes abnormal embryonic development and death of hybrids. Hence, this supports a role of DNA methylation reprogramming and TE derepression in postzygotic isolation of nascent animal species.

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