Environmental Epigenetics Laboratory

Characterization of DNMTs in Killifish

Principle Investigators: Neel Aluru and Sibel Karchner


The goal of this project is to characterize the developmental profiles of DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) genes in the estuarine killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus. DNMTs catalyze the transferof of a methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) to cytosine. In mammals, there are three DNMTs (DNMT1, DNMT3a, DNMT3b) that play an important role in establishing and maintaining the methylation profiles. In contrast, zebrafish and killifish possess multiple copies of DNMT3 due to genome duplication and their functions are not fully understood.

Killifish is an excellent model species that displays a variety of physiological adaptations to its environment. Some populations that live in highly contaminated coastal habitats have acquired heritable resistance to the toxic effects of contaminants. Evidence from recent studies demonstrate that epigenetic mechanisms play an important role in transgenerational effects of contaminants and phenotypic plasticity. Hence, the goal of this study is to characterize DNMT profiles during development and to understand the role of DNA methylation in environmental adaptation.

 Funding is provided by WHOI Ocean Life Institute (2012)

Last updated: October 19, 2012