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J Comp Physiol B. 2008 Aug;178(6):729-34. doi: 10.1007/s00360-008-0261-0. Epub 2008 Mar 28.

Epigenetic silencers are enriched in dormant desert frog muscle.

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CSIRO Livestock Industries, Brisbane, Qld, Australia.


Green-striped burrowing frogs, Cyclorana alboguttata, survive droughts by entering a metabolic depression called aestivation, characterised by a reduction in resting oxygen consumption by 80%. Aestivation in C. alboguttata is manifest by transcriptional silencing of skeletal muscle bioenergetic genes, such as NADH ubiquinone oxidoreductase 1, ATP synthase and superoxide dismutase 2. In this study, we hypothesised that aestivation is associated with epigenetic change in frog muscle. We assessed mRNA transcript abundance of seven genes that code for proteins with established roles in epigenetically-mediated gene silencing [transcriptional co-repressor SIN3A, DNA (cytosine-5-) methyltransferase 1, methyl CpG binding protein 2, chromodomain helicase DNA binding protein 4, histone binding protein rbbp4, histone deacetylase 1 and nuclear receptor co-repressor 2] using qRT-PCR. These seven genes showed a modest (1.1-3.5-fold) but coordinated upregulation in 6-month aestivating muscle. This reached significance for SIN3A and DNA cytosine-5-methyltransferase 1 in standard pair-wise comparisons (p < 0.05), and the candidates as a whole when analysed by Fisher's combined probability test (p < 0.01). These data are consistent with the hypothesis that the transcriptional silencing and metabolic depression that occurs during seasonal dormancy are associated with chromatin remodelling, and present a novel example of an environmentally induced epigenetic modification in an adult vertebrate.

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