Evidence for widespread genomic methylation in the migratory locust, Locusta migratoria (Orthoptera: Acrididae).
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The importance of DNA methylation in mammalian and plant systems is well established. In recent years there has been renewed interest in DNA methylation in insects. Accumulating evidence, both from mammals and insects, points towards an emerging role for DNA methylation in the regulation of phenotypic plasticity. The migratory locust (Locusta migratoria) is a model organism for the study of phenotypic plasticity. Despite this, there is little information available about the degree to which the genome is methylated in this species and genes encoding methylation machinery have not been previously identified. We therefore undertook an initial investigation to establish the presence of a functional DNA methylation system in L. migratoria. We found that the migratory locust possesses genes that putatively encode methylation machinery (DNA methyltransferases and a methyl-binding domain protein) and exhibits genomic methylation, some of which appears to be localised to repetitive regions of the genome. We have also identified a distinct group of genes within the L. migratoria genome that appear to have been historically methylated and show some possible functional differentiation. These results will facilitate more detailed research into the functional significance of DNA methylation in locusts.