Dauer diapause has transgenerational effects on starvation survival and gene expression plasticity
Phenotypic plasticity is facilitated by epigenetic regulation, and remnants of such regulation may persist after plasticity-inducing cues are gone. However, the relationship between plasticity and transgenerational epigenetic memory is not understood. Dauer diapause in Caenorhabditis elegans provides an opportunity to determine how a plastic response to the early-life environment affects traits later in life and in subsequent generations. We report that after extended diapause, post-dauer worms initially exhibit reduced reproductive success and greater inter-individual variation. In contrast, F3 progeny of post-dauers display increased starvation resistance and lifespan, revealing potentially adaptive transgenerational effects. Transgenerational effects are dependent on the duration of diapause, indicating an effect of extended starvation. In agreement, RNA-seq demonstrates a transgenerational effect on nutrient-responsive genes. Further, post-dauer F3 progeny exhibit reduced gene expression plasticity, suggesting a trade-off between plasticity and epigenetic memory. This work reveals complex effects of nutrient stress over different time scales in an animal that evolved to thrive in feast and famine.
Webster, A; Jordan, J; Hibshman, J; Chitrakar, R; Baugh, R
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