Epigenetic plasticity: New model systems for epigenetics research

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Phenotypic plasticity is a key feature of epigenetic regulation and plays an important role in the adaptation of organisms to changing environments. Over the past few years, we have therefore investigated epigenetic regulation in a number of animal models that are known for their high degree of phenotypic plasticity (Lyko et al., 2010; Falckenhayn et al., 2013). Our activities now focus on the marbled crayfish, a parthenogenetically reproducing freshwater crayfish that can be easily cultured in the laboratory. In spite of their genetic homogeneity, marbled crayfish have shown a substantial degree of phenotypic variation (see picture), which establishes them as a unique model for epigenetics research. We have defined marbled crayfish as a novel species and named it Procambarus virginalis (Vogt et al., 2015). We have also completed a draft version of the genome sequence, with an estimated genome size of 3.8 Gb. Genome annotation identified a conserved and highly active DNA methylation system in marbled crayfish and we are currently investigating its role in phenotypic variation and ecological adaptation.

Further information can be found on our Marmorkrebs webserver.

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