Genome methylation patterns across castes and generations in a parasitoid wasp

Roei Shaham, Rachel Ben-Shlomo, Uzi Motro, Tamar Keasar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental influences shape phenotypes within and across generations, often through DNA methylations that modify gene expression. Methylations were proposed to mediate caste and task allocation in some eusocial insects, but how an insect's environment affects DNA methylation in its offspring is yet unknown. We characterized parental effects on methylation profiles in the polyembryonic parasitoid wasp Copidosoma koehleri, as well as methylation patterns associated with its simple caste system. We used methylation-sensitive amplified fragment length polymorphism (MS-AFLP) to compare methylation patterns, among (1) reproductive and soldier larvae; and (2) offspring (larvae, pupae, and adults) of wasps that were reared at either high or low larval density and mated in the four possible combinations. Methylation frequencies were similar across castes, but the profiles of methylated fragments differed significantly. Parental rearing density did not affect methylation frequencies in the offspring at any developmental stage. Principal coordinate analysis indicated no significant differences in methylation profiles among the four crossbreeding groups and the three developmental stages. Nevertheless, a clustering analysis, performed on a subset of the fragments, revealed similar methylation patterns in larvae, pupae, and adults in two of the four parental crosses. Nine fragments were methylated at two cytosine sites in all larvae, and five others were methylated at two sites in all adults. Thus, DNA methylations correlate with within-generation phenotypic plasticity due to caste. However, their association with developmental stage and with transgenerational epigenetic effects is not clearly supported.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7943-7953
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number22
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Genomic imprinting
  • methylation-sensitive amplified fragment length polymorphism
  • polyembryony
  • transgenerational epigenetic effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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