The emerging field of epigenomics has the potential to bridge the gap between static genomic sequences and complex phenotypes that arise from multigenic, nonlinear and often context-dependent interactions. However, this goal can only be achieved if easily manageable experimental systems are available in which changes in epigenomic settings can be evaluated in the context of the phenotype under investigation. Recent progress in the characterization of insect DNA methylation patterns enables evaluation of the extent to which epigenetic mechanisms contribute to complex phenotypes in easily accessible organisms whose relatively small genomes are not only sparingly methylated, but the methylated sites are also found almost exclusively in gene bodies. The implementation of insect models in the study of DNA methylation will accelerate progress in understanding the functional significance of this important epigenetic mechanism in controlling gene splicing, in environmentally driven reprogramming of gene expression and in adult brain plasticity.
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