Environmentally induced DNA methylation is inherited across generations in an aquatic keystone species

Nathalie Feiner*, Reinder Radersma, Louella Vasquez, Markus Ringnér, Björn Nystedt, Amanda Raine, Elmar W. Tobi, Bastiaan T. Heijmans, Tobias Uller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Transgenerational inheritance of environmentally induced epigenetic marks can have significant impacts on eco-evolutionary dynamics, but the phenomenon remains controversial in ecological model systems. We used whole-genome bisulfite sequencing of individual water fleas (Daphnia magna) to assess whether environmentally induced DNA methylation is transgenerationally inherited. Genetically identical females were exposed to one of three natural stressors, or a de-methylating drug, and their offspring were propagated clonally for four generations under control conditions. We identified between 70 and 225 differentially methylated CpG positions (DMPs) in F1 individuals whose mothers were exposed to a natural stressor. Roughly half of these environmentally induced DMPs persisted until generation F4. In contrast, treatment with the drug demonstrated that pervasive hypomethylation upon exposure is reset almost completely after one generation. These results suggest that environmentally induced DNA methylation is non-random and stably inherited across generations in Daphnia, making epigenetic inheritance a putative factor in the eco-evolutionary dynamics of freshwater communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104303
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2022


  • Evolutionary biology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular genetics


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