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Retrotransposon methylation and activity in wild fish (A. anguilla): A matter of size
- Pierron, Fabien, Daffe, Guillemine, Lambert, Patrick, Couture, Patrice, Baudrimont, Magalie
- Environmental pollution 2019 v.245 pp. 494-503
- DNA methylation, animal growth, cell differentiation, ecology, ecotoxicology, eel, environmental factors, evolutionary biology, genes, global change, liver, morphometry, phenotypic plasticity, pollutants, retrotransposons, stress response, transcription (genetics), wild fish
- Understanding how organisms cope with global change is a major question in many fields of biology. Mainly, understanding the molecular mechanisms supporting rapid phenotypic changes of organisms in response to stress and linking stress-induced molecular events to adaptive or adverse outcomes at the individual or population levels remain a major challenge in evolutionary biology, ecology or ecotoxicology. In this view, the present study aimed to test (i) whether environmental factors, especially pollutants, can trigger changes in the activity of retrotransposons (RTs) in wild fish and (ii) if changes in RT DNA methylation or transcription levels can be linked to modifications at the individual level. RTs are genetic elements that have the ability to replicate and integrate elsewhere in the genome. Although RTs are mainly quiescent during normal development, they can be experimentally activated under life-threatening conditions, affecting the fitness of their host. Wild eels were collected in four sampling sites presenting differing levels of contamination. The methylation level and the transcriptional activity of two RTs and two genes involved in development and cell differentiation were analyzed in fish liver in addition to the determination of fish contaminants levels and diverse growth and morphometric indices. An up-regulation of RTs associated to lower methylation levels and lower growth indices were observed in highly contaminated fish. Our results suggest that RT activation in fish experiencing stress conditions could have both detrimental and beneficial implications, affecting fish growth but promoting resistance to environmental stressors such as pollutants.