In seasonal environments, timing of reproduction is a trait with important fitness consequences, but we know little about the molecular mechanisms that underlie the variation in this trait. Recently, several studies put forward DNA methylation as a mechanism regulating seasonal timing of reproduction in both plants and animals. To understand the involvement of DNA methylation in seasonal timing of reproduction, it is necessary to examine within-individual temporal changes in DNA methylation, but such studies are very rare. Here, we use a temporal sampling approach to examine changes in DNA methylation throughout the breeding season in female great tits (Parus major) that were artificially selected for early timing of breeding. These females were housed in climate-controlled aviaries and subjected to two contrasting temperature treatments. Reduced representation bisulfite sequencing on red blood cell derived DNA showed genome-wide temporal changes in more than 40,000 out of the 522,643 CpG sites examined. Although most of these changes were relatively small (mean within-individual change of 6%), the sites that showed a temporal and treatment-specific response in DNA methylation are candidate sites of interest for future studies trying to understand the link between DNA methylation patterns and timing of reproduction.
Viitaniemi, H., Verhagen, I. C., Visser, M. E., Honkela, A., van Oers, K., & Husby, A. (2019). Seasonal Variation in Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Patterns and the Onset of Seasonal Timing of Reproduction in Great Tits. Genome Biology and Evolution, 11(3), 970. https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evz044