Herbivory induced methylation changes in the Lombardy poplar: A comparison of results obtained by epiGBS and WGBS

A. Niloya Troyee* (Corresponding author), Cristian Peña-Ponton, Mónica Medrano, Koen J.F. Verhoeven, Conchita Alonso* (Corresponding author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


DNA cytosine methylation is an epigenetic mechanism involved in regulation of plant responses to biotic and abiotic stress and its ability to change can vary with the sequence context in which a cytosine appears (CpG, CHG, CHH, where H = Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine). Quantification of DNA methylation in model plant species is frequently addressed by Whole Genome Bisulfite Sequencing (WGBS), which requires a good-quality reference genome. Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing (RRBS) is a cost-effective potential alternative for ecological research with limited genomic resources and large experimental designs. In this study, we provide for the first time a comprehensive comparison between the outputs of RRBS and WGBS to characterize DNA methylation changes in response to a given environmental factor. In particular, we used epiGBS (recently optimized RRBS) and WGBS to assess global and sequence-specific differential methylation after insect and artificial herbivory in clones of Populus nigra cv. 'italica'. We found that, after any of the two herbivory treatments, global methylation percentage increased in CHH, and the shift was detected as statistically significant only by epiGBS. As regards to loci-specific differential methylation induced by herbivory (cytosines in epiGBS and regions in WGBS), both techniques indicated the specificity of the response elicited by insect and artificial herbivory, together with higher frequency of hypo-methylation in CpG and hyper-methylation in CHH. Methylation changes were mainly found in gene bodies and intergenic regions when present at CpG and CHG and in transposable elements and intergenic regions at CHH context. Thus, epiGBS succeeded to characterize global, genome-wide methylation changes in response to herbivory in the Lombardy poplar. Our results support that epiGBS could be particularly useful in large experimental designs aimed to explore epigenetic changes of non-model plant species in response to multiple environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0291202
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 08 Sept 2023

Research theme

  • Biodiversity


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