Project Information
The Role of the Epigenetic Mechanism, DNA Methylation, in the Tolerance and Resistance of Antarctic Pteropods to Ocean Acidification and Warming
Short Title:
Pteropod epigenetics and gene expression in response to OA and warming
Start Date:
End Date:
Project Website(s)
Part 1: Non-technical description: With support from the Office of Polar Programs, this project will evaluate how an important part of the food web in the coastal ocean of Antarctica will respond to climate change. The focal study organism in the plankton is a shelled mollusk, the Antarctic pteropod, Limacina helicina antarctica, a Southern Ocean organism that this known to respond to climate driven changes in ocean acidification and ocean warming. Ocean acidification, the lowering of ocean pH via the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the surface of the ocean, is a change in the ocean that is expected to cross deleterious thresholds of pH within decades. This study will improve understanding of how pteropods will respond, which will provide insight into predicting the resilience of the Antarctic marine ecosystem during future changes, one of the planets last marine wildernesses. The project will use tools of molecular biology to examine specifically how gene expression is modulated in the pteropods, and further, how the changes and regulation of genes act to resist the stress of low pH and high temperature. In addition, this project supports the training of Ph.D. graduate students and advances the goal of inclusive excellence in STEM and in marine sciences, in particular. The students involved in this project are from groups traditionally under-represented in marine science including first-generation college students. Overall, the project contributes to the development of the U.S. work force and contributes to diversity and inclusive excellence in the geosciences. Part 2: Technical description: The overarching goal of this project is to investigate the molecular response of the Antarctic thecosome pteropod, Limacina helicina antarctica to ocean acidification (OA) and ocean warming. The project will investigate changes in the epigenome of juvenile L. h. antarctica, by assessing the dynamics of DNA methylation in response to three scenarios of environmental conditions that were simulated in laboratory mesocosm CO2 experiments: (1) present-day pCO2 conditions for summer and winter, (2) future ocean acidification expected within 10-15 years, and (3) a multiple stressor experiment to investigate synergistic interaction of OA and high temperature stress. Recent lab-based mesocosm experiment research showed significant changes in the dynamics of global DNA methylation in the pteropod genome, along with variation in gene expression in response to abiotic changes. Thus, it is clear that juvenile L. h. antarctica are capable of mounting a substantial epigenetic response to ocean acidification. However, it is not known how DNA methylation, as an epigenetic process, is modulating changes in the transcriptome. In order to address this gap in the epigenetic knowledge regarding pteropods, the project will use next-generation sequencing approaches (e.g., RNA sequencing and reduced representation bisulfite sequencing) to integrate changes in methylation status with changes in gene expression in juvenile pteropods. Overall, this investigation is an important step in exploring environmental transcriptomics and phenotypic plasticity of an ecologically important member of Southern Ocean macrozoooplankton in response to anthropogenic climate change. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Person Role
Hofmann, Gretchen Investigator and contact
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 2053726
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
Repository Title (link) Format(s) Status
github Analyses combining ATAC-seq, RRBS, and RNA-seq data for purple urchins Not Provided exists
  1. Bogan, S. N., M.E. Strader and G.E. Hofmann (2022) Gene regulation by DNA methylation is contingent on chromatin accessibility during transgenerational plasticity in the purple sea urchin. Molecular Ecology
Platforms and Instruments

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