The methylation and telomere landscape in two families of marsupials with different rates of chromosome evolution

Emory D Ingles, Janine E Deakin

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Two marsupial families exemplify divergent rates of karyotypic change. The Dasyurid family has an extremely conserved karyotype. In contrast, there is significant chromosomal variation within the Macropodidae family, best exemplified by members of the genus Petrogale (rock-wallabies). Both families are also distinguished by their telomere landscape (length and epigenetics), with the dasyurids having a unique telomere length dimorphism not observed in other marsupials and hypothesised to be regulated in a parent-of-origin fashion. Previous work has shown that proximal ends of chromosomes are enriched in cytosine methylation in dasyurids, but that the chromosomes of a macropod, the tammar wallaby, have DNA methylation enrichment of pericentric regions. Using a combination of telomere and 5-methylcytosine immunofluorescence staining, we investigated the telomere landscape of four dasyurid and three Petrogale species. As part of this study, we also further examined the parent-of-origin hypothesis for the regulation of telomere length dimorphism in dasyurids, using epigenetic modifications known to differentiate the active maternal X chromosome, including 5-methylcytosine methylation and histone modifications H3K4me2, H3K9ac and H4Kac. Our results give further support to the parent-of-origin hypothesis for the regulation of telomere length dimorphism in dasyurids, where the paternally derived X chromosome in females was associated with long telomeres and the maternally derived with short telomeres. In contrast to the tammar wallaby, rock-wallabies demonstrated a similar 5-methylcytosine staining pattern across all chromosomes to that of dasyurids, suggesting that DNA methylation of telomeric regions is not responsible for differences in the rates of chromosome evolution between these two families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-332
Number of pages16
JournalChromosome Research
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Dec 2018


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