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J Hered. 2017 Jun 1;108(4):341-348. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esx004.

Ancestry-Specific Methylation Patterns in Admixed Offspring from an Experimental Coyote and Gray Wolf Cross.

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From the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department, Princeton University, 106A Guyot Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544 (vonHoldt, Heppenheimer, and Rutledge); and Biology Department, Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Coon Rapids, MN 55433 (Petrenko and Croonquist).


Reduced fitness of admixed individuals is typically attributed to genetic incompatibilities. Although mismatched genomes can lead to fitness changes, in some cases the reduction in hybrid fitness is subtle. The potential role of transcriptional regulation in admixed genomes could provide a mechanistic explanation for these discrepancies, but evidence is lacking for nonmodel organisms. Here, we explored the intersection of genetics and gene regulation in admixed genomes derived from an experimental cross between a western gray wolf and western coyote. We found a significant positive association between methylation and wolf ancestry, and identified outlier genes that have been previously implicated in inbreeding-related, or otherwise deleterious, phenotypes. We describe a pattern of site-specific, rather than genome-wide, methylation driven by inter-specific hybridization. Epigenetic variation is thus suggested to play a nontrivial role in both maintaining and combating mismatched genotypes through putative transcriptional mechanisms. We conclude that the regulation of gene expression is an underappreciated key component of hybrid genome functioning, but could also act as a potential source of novel and beneficial adaptive variation in hybrid offspring.


admixture; ancestry; canid; methylation

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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