[MARMAM] New publication on An epigenetic study in the Mediterranean fin whale

PANTI, CRISTINA panti4 at unisi.it
Wed Oct 21 01:50:21 PDT 2020

Dear MARMAM members,

On behalf of all the authors, I would like to share with you our last paper
published in Marine Genomics:

“Skin distress associated with xenobiotics exposure: An epigenetic study in
the Mediterranean fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)”

Authors: Annalaura Mancia, Luigi Abelli, Maria Cristina Fossi, Cristina


The publication can be found at:


The phenotypic plasticity of many organisms is mediated in part by
epigenetics, the heritable changes in gene activity that occur without any
alterations to DNA sequence. A major mechanism in epigenetics is the DNA
methylation (DNAm). Hypo- and hyper-methylation are generalized responses
to control gene expression however recent studies have demonstrated that
classes of contaminants could mark specific DNAm signatures, that could
usefully signal prior environmental exposure.

We collected skin and blubber from 6 free-ranging fin whale (Balaenoptera
physalus) individuals sampled as a part of a previous published study in
the northern Mediterranean Sea. Genomic DNA extracted from the skin of the
fin whales and levels of contaminants measured in the blubber of the same
individuals were used for DNAm profiling through reduced representation
bisulfite sequencing (RRBS).

We tested the hypothesis that differences in the methylation patterns could
be related to environmental exposure to contaminants and load in the whale

The aims of this study were to determine the DNAm profiles of the
methylation contexts (CpGs and non-CpGs) of differently contaminated groups
using the RRBS, and to identify potential contaminant exposure related
genes. Amount and proportion of methylcytosines in CpG and non-CpG regions
(CHH and CHG) was very similar across the 6 samples. The proportion of
methylcytosines sites in CpG was n = 32,682, the highest among all the
sequence contexts (n = 3216 in CHH; n = 1743 in CHG). The majority of the
methylcytosine occurred in the intron regions, followed by exon and
promoter regions in CpG, CHH and CHG. Gene Ontology results indicated that
DNAm affected genes that take place in cell differentiation and function in
cutaneous, vascular and nervous systems. The identification of cellular
response pathways allows a better understanding of the organism biological
reaction to a specific environmental challenge and the development of
sensitive tools based on the predictive responses. Eco-epigenetics analyses
have an extraordinary potential to address growing issues on pollution
biomonitoring, ecotoxicity assessment, conservation and management planning.

Thank you for your interest in the paper!

Best regards,


><> ><> ><> ><> ><> ><> ><> ><> ><> ><> ><> ><>

Cristina Panti, PhD

Department of Environmental, Earth and Physical Sciences

University of Siena

Via P.A. Mattioli, 4

53100, Siena


Ph. +39 0577 232245

Fax. +39 0577 232930


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