The renewed interest in epigenetics has led to the understanding that both the environment and individual lifestyle can directly interact with the epigenome to influence its dynamics. Epigenetic phenomena are mediated by DNA methylation, stable chromatin modifications and non-coding RNA-associated gene silencing involving specific proteins called epigenetic factors.
Multiple organisms, ranging from plants to yeast and mammals, have been used as model systems to study epigenetics. The interactions between parasites and their hosts are models of choice to study these mechanisms because the selective pressures are strong and the evolution is fast.
The asexually reproducing root-knot nematodes (RKN) offer different advantages to study the processes and mechanisms involved in epigenetic regulation. RKN genomes sequencing and annotation have identified numerous genes, however, which of those are involved in the adaption to an environment and potentially relevant to the evolution of plant-parasitism is yet to be discovered.
Here, we used a functional comparative annotation strategy combining orthology data, mining of curated genomics as well as protein domain databases and phylogenetic reconstructions.
Overall, we show that (i) neither RKN, nor the model nematode Caenorhabditis eleganspossess any DNA methyltransferases (DNMT) (ii) RKN do not possess the complete machinery for DNA methylation on the 6th position of adenine (6mA) (iii) histone (de)acetylation and (de)methylation pathways are conserved between C. elegans and RKN, and the corresponding genes are amplified in asexually reproducing RKN (iv) some specific non-coding RNA families found in plant-parasitic nematodes are dissimilar from those in C. elegans. In the asexually reproducing RKN Meloidogyne incognita, expression data from various developmental stages supported the putative role of these proteins in epigenetic regulations.
Our results refine previous predictions on the epigenetic machinery of model species and constitute the most comprehensive description of epigenetic factors relevant to the plant-parasitic lifestyle and/or asexual mode of reproduction of RKN. Providing an atlas of epigenetic factors in RKN is an informative resource that will enable researchers to explore their potential role in adaptation of these parasites to their environment.
Adaptation, Epigenetics, Functional comparative annotation, Orthology, Chromatin, Histone modifications, Root-knot nématodes, Meloidogyne, Plant parasitism, Asexual reproduction
Pratx, L., Rancurel, C., Da Rocha, M., Danchin, E.G.J., Castagnone-Sereno, P., Abad, P., and Perfus-Barbeoch, L. (2018). Genome-wide expert annotation of the epigenetic machinery of the plant-parasitic nematodes Meloidogyne spp., with a focus on the asexually reproducing species. BMC Genomics 19, 321. DOI: 10.1186/s12864-018-4686-x