Exploring epiallele stability in a population-epigenetic model

Jemma L. Geoghegan*, Hamish G. Spencer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Differences in transgenerational epigenetic stability can result in a diversity of phenotypes among genetically identical individuals. Here we present a model that encapsulates non-genomic phenotypic variation in a population over two distinct environments that each act as a stimulus for epigenetic modification. By allowing different levels of epigenetic resetting, thereby increasing epigenetic diversity, we explore the dynamics of multiple epiallelic states subject to selection in a population-epigenetic model. We find that both epigenetic resetting and the environmental frequency are crucial parameters in this system. Our results illustrate the regions of parameter space that enable up to three equilibria to be simultaneously locally stable. Furthermore, it is clear that both continued environmental induction and epigenetic resetting prevent epigenetic fixation, maintaining phenotypic variation through different epiallelic states. However, unless both environments are reasonably common, levels of epigenetically-maintained variation are low. We argue that it is vital that non-genomic phenotypic diversity is not ignored in evolutionary theory, but instead regarded as distinct epiallelic variants. Ultimately, a critical goal of future experiments should be to determine accurate rates of epigenetic resetting, especially over several generations, in order to establish the long-term significance of epigenetic inheritance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-144
Number of pages9
JournalTheoretical Population Biology
Volume83
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Epiallele
  • Epigenetic
  • Evolution
  • Inheritance
  • Population
  • Transgenerational

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