Characterization of the Pristionchus pacificus epigenetic toolkit reveals the evolutionary loss of the histone methyltransferase complex PRC2

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Characterization of the Pristionchus pacificus epigenetic toolkit reveals the evolutionary loss of the histone methyltransferase complex PRC2

Authors

Brown, A.; Meiborg, A. B.; Franz-Wachtel, M.; Macek, B.; Gordon, S.; Rog, O.; Weadick, C. J.; Werner, M. S.

Abstract

Comparative approaches have revealed both divergent and convergent paths to achieving shared developmental outcomes. Thus, only through assembling multiple case studies can we understand biological principles. Yet, despite appreciating the conservation or lack thereof of developmental networks, the conservation of epigenetic mechanisms regulating these networks is poorly understood. The nematode Pristionchus pacificus has emerged as a model system of plasticity and epigenetic regulation as it exhibits a bacterivorous or omnivorous morph depending on its environment. Here, we determined the epigenetic toolkit available to P. pacificus as a resource for future functional work on plasticity, and as a comparison with C. elegans to investigate the conservation of epigenetic mechanisms. Broadly, we observed a similar cast of genes with putative epigenetic function between C. elegans and P. pacificus. However, we also found striking differences. Most notably, the histone methyltransferase complex PRC2 appears to be missing in P. pacificus.We described the deletion/pseudogenization of the PRC2 genes mes-2 and mes-6 and concluded that both were lost in the last common ancestor of P. pacificus and a related species P. arcanus. Interestingly, we observed the enzymatic product of PRC2 (H3K27me3) by mass spectrometry and immunofluorescence, suggesting that a currently unknown methyltransferase has been co-opted for heterochromatin silencing. Altogether, we have provided an inventory of epigenetic genes in P. pacificus to enable reverse-genetic experiments related to plasticity, and in doing so have described the first loss of PRC2 in a multicellular organism.

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