Hosseini S, Meunier C, Nguyen D, Reimegård J, Johannesson H
Epigenetics 15 (9) 972-987 [2020-09-00; online 2020-03-31]
DNA methylation is an epigenetic mark that plays an important role in genetic regulation in eukaryotes. Major progress has been made in dissecting the molecular pathways that regulate DNA methylation. Yet, little is known about DNA methylation variation over evolutionary time. Here we present an investigation of the variation of DNA methylation and transposable element (TE) content in species of the filamentous ascomycetes Neurospora. We generated genome-wide DNA methylation data at single-base resolution, together with genomic TE content and gene expression data, of 10 individuals representing five closely related Neurospora species. We found that the methylation levels were low (ranging from 1.3% to 2.5%) and varied among the genomes in a species-specific way. Furthermore, we found that the TEs over 400 bp long were targeted by DNA methylation, and in all genomes, high methylation correlated with low GC, confirming a conserved link between DNA methylation and Repeat Induced Point (RIP) mutations in this group of fungi. Both TE content and DNA methylation pattern showed phylogenetic signal, and the species with the highest TE load (N. crassa) also exhibited the highest methylation level per TE. Our results suggest that DNA methylation is an evolvable trait and indicate that the genomes of Neurospora are shaped by an evolutionary arms race between TEs and host defence.