Natural epigenetic variation in the female great roundleaf bat (Hipposideros armiger) populations
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Epigenetic modifications are considered to have an important role in evolution. DNA methylation is one of the best studied epigenetic mechanisms and methylation variability is crucial for promoting phenotypic diversification of organisms in response to environmental variation. A critical first step in the assessment of the potential role of epigenetic variation in evolution is the identification of DNA methylation polymorphisms and their relationship with genetic variations in natural populations. However, empirical data is scant in animals, and particularly so in wild mammals. Bats are considered as bioindicators because of their sensitivity to environmental perturbations and they may present an opportunity to explore epigenetic variance in wild mammalian populations. Our study is the first to explore these questions in the female great roundleaf bat (Hipposideros armiger) populations using the methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism (MSAP) technique. We obtained 868 MSAP sites using 18 primer combinations and found (1) a low genomic methylation level (21.3 % on average), but extensive DNA methylation polymorphism (90.2 %) at 5′-CCGG-3′ sites; (2) epigenetic variation that is structured into distinct between- (29.8 %) and within- (71.2 %) population components, as does genetic variation; and (3) a significant correlation between epigenetic and genetic variations (P < 0.05). These results may also apply to other wild mammalian populations. The possible causes for the correlation between epigenetic and genetic variations are discussed.