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The maternal effects of dietary restriction on Dnmt expression and reproduction in two clones of Daphnia pulex

Abstract

The inheritance of epigenetic marks induced by environmental variation in a previous generation is broadly accepted as a mediator of phenotypic plasticity. Transgenerational effects linking maternal experiences to changes in morphology, gene expression, and life history of successive generations are known across many taxa. While the number of studies linking epigenetic variation to ecological maternal effects is increasing rapidly, few if any attempts have been made to investigate molecular mechanisms governing epigenetic functions in the context of ecologically relevant maternal effects. Daphnia make an ideal model for investigating molecular epigenetic mechanisms and ecological maternal effects because they will reproduce asexually in the lab. Daphnia are also known to have strong maternal effects, involving a variety of traits and environmental variables. Using two clones of Daphnia pulex, we investigated the plasticity of life history and DNA methyltransferase (Dnmt) gene expression with respect to food limitation within and across generations. We found strong evidence of genotypic variation of responses of life history and Dnmt expression to low food diets, both within and across generations. In general, effects of offspring diet were larger than either the direct maternal effect or offspring-maternal environment interactions, but the direction of the maternal effect was usually in the opposite direction of the within-generation effect. For both life history and Dnmt expression, we also found that when offspring had low food, effects of the maternal environment were stronger than when offspring had high food.

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Fig. 1: Experimental design setup.
Fig. 2: Box plots of the effects of diet and maternal diet on the age at maturation in the clones Tro-3 and Morg-5, for both generations.
Fig. 3: Waffle plot representation of diet effect on reproduction type in G0 where each square represents one individual.
Fig. 4: Waffle plot representation of the effect of diet on reproduction type in G1.
Fig. 5: Normalized relative fold expression and standard error for DNA methyltransferases 1, 2, and 3 in the D. pulex clones Tro-3 and Morg-5.

Data availability

Data can be accessed at Dryad: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.1c59zw3zz.

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Acknowledgements

Matt Bruner, Heather Bruck, Rachel Schomaker, and Jake Swanson assisted with various tasks during the work. The Morg-5 and Tro-3 clones were kindly provided to us by Mike Lynch. Comments from our anonymous reviewers allowed us to greatly improve the manuscript. Funding for this work was provided by a grant from NSF award DEB-1556645 to JLD.

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TCA and JLD conceived the ideas and designed the experiments and led the writing of the manuscript. TCA and JA collected the data. TCA analyzed the data. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Trenton C. Agrelius.

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Agrelius, T.C., Altman, J. & Dudycha, J.L. The maternal effects of dietary restriction on Dnmt expression and reproduction in two clones of Daphnia pulex. Heredity (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41437-022-00581-7

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