Epigenetic regulation of sex ratios may explain natural variation in self-fertilization rates

Amy Ellison, Carlos Marcelino Rodríguez López, Paloma Moran, James Breen, Martin Swain, Manuel Megias, Matthew Hegarty, Mike Wilkinson, Rebecca Pawluk, Sofia Consuegra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Self-fertilization (selfing) favours reproductive success when mate availability is low, but renders populations more vulnerable to environmental change by reducing genetic variability. A mixed-breeding strategy (alternating selfing and outcrossing) may allow species to balance these needs, but requires a system for regulating sexual identity. We explored the role of DNA methylation as a regulatory system for sex-ratio modulation in the mixed-mating fish Kryptolebias marmoratus. We found a significant interaction between sexual identity (male or hermaphrodite), temperature and methylation patterns when two selfing lines were exposed to different temperatures during development. We also identified several genes differentially methylated in males and hermaphrodites that represent candidates for the temperature-mediated sex regulation in K. marmoratus. We conclude that an epigenetic mechanism regulated by temperature modulates sexual identity in this selfing species, providing a potentially widespread mechanism by which environmental change may influence selfing rates. We also suggest that K. marmoratus, with naturally inbred populations, represents a good vertebrate model for epigenetic studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20151900
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1819
StatePublished - Nov 11 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • DNA methylation
  • Inbreeding
  • Mangrove killifish
  • Mate availability
  • Mixed mating
  • Selfing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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