The methylation landscape and its role in domestication and gene regulation in the chicken.

Höglund A, Henriksen R, Fogelholm J, Churcher AM, Guerrero-Bosagna CM, Martinez-Barrio A, Johnsson M, Jensen P, Wright D

Nat Ecol Evol 4 (12) 1713-1724 [2020-12-00; online 2020-09-21]

Domestication is one of the strongest examples of artificial selection and has produced some of the most extreme within-species phenotypic variation known. In the case of the chicken, it has been hypothesized that DNA methylation may play a mechanistic role in the domestication response. By inter-crossing wild-derived red junglefowl with domestic chickens, we mapped quantitative trait loci for hypothalamic methylation (methQTL), gene expression (eQTL) and behaviour. We find large, stable methylation differences, with 6,179 cis and 2,973 trans methQTL identified. Over 46% of the trans effects were genotypically controlled by five loci, mainly associated with increased methylation in the junglefowl genotype. In a third of eQTL, we find that there is a correlation between gene expression and methylation, while statistical causality analysis reveals multiple instances where methylation is driving gene expression, as well as the reverse. We also show that methylation is correlated with some aspects of behavioural variation in the inter-cross. In conclusion, our data suggest a role for methylation in the regulation of gene expression underlying the domesticated phenotype of the chicken.

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PubMed 32958860

DOI 10.1038/s41559-020-01310-1

Crossref 10.1038/s41559-020-01310-1

pii: 10.1038/s41559-020-01310-1
figshare: 10.6084/m9.figshare.12803873
figshare: 10.6084/m9.figshare.12803876
figshare: 10.6084/m9.figshare.12803870

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