Heritable epigenetic responses to environmental challenges: Effects on behaviour, gene expression and DNA-methylation in the chicken
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Phenotypic variation within populations is a crucial factor in evolution and is mainly thought to be driven by heritable changes in the base sequence of DNA. Among our domesticated species we find some of the most variable species on earth today. This variety of breeds has appeared during a relatively short evolutionary time, and so far genetic studies have been unable to explain but a small portion of this variation, which indicates more novel mechanisms of inheritance and phenotypic plasticity. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate some of these alternative routes in the chicken, especially focusing on transgenerational effects of environmental challenges on behaviour and gene expression in relation to domestication. In two experiments a chronically unpredictable environment induced phenotypic changes in the parents that were mirrored in the unexposed offspring raised without parental contact. This transmission was especially clear in domesticated birds. A third experiment showed that repeated stress events very early in life could change the developmental program making the birds more resistant to stress later in life. Here, the phenotypic changes were also mirrored in the unexposed offspring and associated with inheritance of gene expression. Epigenetic factors, such as DNA-methylation, could play an important role in the mechanism of these transgenerational effects. A fourth experiment showed that wild types and domesticated chickens differed substantially in their patterns of DNA-methylation, where the domesticated breed had increased amount of promoter DNA-methylation. In line with the previous experiments, this breed also showed increased transmission of methylation marks to their offspring. Conclusively, parental exposure of environmental challenges that introduce changes in behaviour, physiology and gene expression can under both chronic and temporal conditions be heritably programmed in the parent and transmitted to the unexposed offspring. Since heritable epigenetic variation between wild type and domesticated chickens is stable and numerous, it is possible that selection for favourable epigenomes could add another level to the evolutionary processes and therefore might explain some of the rapid changes in the history of the domesticated chicken.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press , 2011. , 53 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1383
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-70155ISBN: 978-91-7393-123-6OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-70155DiVA: diva2:436067
2011-09-16, Planck, Fysikhuset, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 09:15 (English)
Zanella, Adroaldo, Professor
Jensen, Per, Professor
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