The role of epigenetics in response to stress


Epigenetics--the reversible methylation of cytosines and the modification of histone tails--are present in cnidarians. We aim to demonstrate the functional significance of epigenetics in bolstering an organism's response to environmental stress. This is especially important for corals, as they are long-living organisms--we postulate the rate at which beneficial mutations are being generated might not be sufficient to keep pace with the environmental fluxes brought about by rapid climate change (e.g. temperatures, pH, ...).


Changes in DNA methylation of Stylophora pistillata under ocean acidification

In collaboration with our colleagues in CSM, Monaco, we obtained methylation data and expression data from corals grown under long-term pH stress. These corals tend to have sparse skeletal structures--and we are trying to come up with molecular reasons to explain these underlying phenotypic alteratiions.


Changes in DNA methylation of Aiptasia at the onset of symbiosis

How does a host recognise and initiate symbiosis with its symbionts? Are the underlying molecular processes also under epigenetic control? We aim to demonstrate that these changes occur in tandem with the oft-studied transcriptional shifts.



Changes in histone modifications of Aiptasia under heat stress

Different Aiptasia strains display different degrees of tolerances to heat stress. Is this purely transcriptional? Or does it also include control at the epigenetic level? We investigate whether histones possess the same histone modifications present in mammals, and whether these histone modifications are altered under environmental stress.