The evolution of DNA methylation and its relationship to sociality in insects

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Adam J BewickRobert J Schmitz


DNA methylation contributes to gene and transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes, and therefore has been hypothesized to facilitate the evolution of flexible traits such as sociality in insects. However, DNA methylation is sparsely studied in insects. Therefore, we documented patterns of DNA methylation across a wide diversity of insects. Furthermore, we tested the hypothesis that the DNA methylation system will be associated with presence/absence of sociality among insects. We also predicted that underlying enzymatic machinery is concordant with patterns of DNA methylation. We found DNA methylation to be widespread, detected in all orders examined except Diptera (flies). Whole genome bisulfite sequencing showed that orders differed in levels of DNA methylation. Hymenopteran (ants, bees, wasps and sawflies) had some of the lowest levels, including several potential losses. Blattodea (cockroaches) show all possible patterns, including a potential loss of DNA methylation in a eusocial species whereas solitary species had the highest levels. Phylogenetically corrected comparisons revealed no evidence that supports evolutionary dependency between sociality and DNA methylation. Species with DNA methylation do not always possess the ...Continue Reading

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