Environmentally selected aphid variants in clonality context display differential patterns of methylation in the genome


Heritability of acquired phenotypic traits is an adaptive evolutionary process that appears more complex than the basic allele selection guided by environmental pressure. In insects, the trans-generational transmission of epigenetic marks in clonal and/or sexual species is poorly documented. Aphids were used as a model to explore this feature because their asexual phase generates a stochastic and/or environment-oriented repertoire of variants. The a priori unchanged genome in clonal individuals prompts us to hypothesize whether covalent methyl DNA marks might be associated to the phenotypic variability and fitness selection. The full differential transcriptome between two environmentally selected clonal variants that originated from the same founder mother was mapped on the entire genomic scaffolds, in parallel with the methyl cytosine distribution. Data suggest that the assortments of heavily methylated DNA sites are distinct in these two clonal phenotypes. This might constitute an epigenetic mechanism that confers the robust adaptation of insect species to various environments involving clonal reproduction.