Integrated Analyses of DNA Methylation and Gene Expression of Rainbow Trout Muscle under Variable Ploidy and Muscle Atrophy Conditions

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Salem, M.; Al-Tobasei, R.; Ali, A.; Kenney, B. Integrated Analyses of DNA Methylation and Gene Expression of Rainbow Trout Muscle under Variable Ploidy and Muscle Atrophy Conditions. Genes 2022, 13, 1151.


Rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, is an important cool, freshwater aquaculture species used as a model for biological research. However, its genome reference has not been annotated for epigenetic markers affecting various biological processes, including muscle growth/atrophy. Increased energetic demands during gonadogenesis/reproduction provoke muscle atrophy in rainbow trout. We described DNA methylation and its associated gene expression in atrophying muscle by comparing gravid, diploid females to sterile, triploid females. Methyl Mini-seq and RNA-Seq were simultaneously used to characterize genome-wide DNA methylation and its association with gene expression in rainbow trout muscle. Genome-wide enrichment in the number of CpGs, accompanied by depleted methylation levels, was noticed around the gene transcription start site (TSS). Hypermethylation of CpG sites within ±1 kb on both sides of TSS (promoter and gene body) was weakly/moderately associated with reduced gene expression. Conversely, hypermethylation of the CpG sites in downstream regions of the gene body +2 to +10 kb was weakly associated with increased gene expression. Unlike mammalian genomes, rainbow trout gene promotors are poor in CpG islands, at <1% compared to 60%. No signs of genome-wide, differentially methylated (DM) CpGs were observed due to the polyploidy effect; only 1206 CpGs (0.03%) were differentially methylated, and these were primarily associated with muscle atrophy. Twenty-eight genes exhibited differential gene expression consistent with methylation levels of 31 DM CpGs. These 31 DM CpGs represent potential epigenetic markers of muscle atrophy in rainbow trout. The DM CpG-harboring genes are involved in apoptosis, epigenetic regulation, autophagy, collagen metabolism, cell membrane functions, and Homeobox proteins. Our study also identified genes explaining higher water content and modulated glycolysis previously shown as characteristic biochemical signs of rainbow trout muscle atrophy associated with sexual maturation. This study characterized DNA methylation in the rainbow trout genome and its correlation with gene expression. This work also identified novel epigenetic markers associated with muscle atrophy in fish/lower vertebrates.