DNA methylation and regulation of DNA methyltransferases in a freeze-tolerant vertebrate

Biochem Cell Biol. 2020 Apr;98(2):145-153. doi: 10.1139/bcb-2019-0091. Epub 2019 May 22.


The wood frog is one of the few freeze-tolerance vertebrates. This is accomplished in part by the accumulation of cryoprotectant glucose, metabolic rate depression, and stress response activation. These may be achieved by mechanisms such as DNA methylation, which is typically associated with transcriptional repression. Hyperglycemia is also associated with modifications to epigenetic profiles, indicating an additional role that the high levels of glucose play in freeze tolerance. We sought to determine whether DNA methylation is affected during freezing exposure, and whether this is due to the wood frog's response to hyperglycemia. We examined global DNA methylation and DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) in the liver and muscle of frozen and glucose-loaded wood frogs. The results showed that levels of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) increased in the muscle, suggesting elevated DNA methylation during freezing. DNMT activities also decreased in muscle during thawing, glucose loading, and in vitro glucose experiments. Liver DNMT activities were similar to muscle; however, a varied response to DNMT levels and a decrease in 5mC highlight the metabolic role the liver plays during freezing. Glucose was also shown to decrease DNMT activity levels in the wood frog, in vitro, elucidating a potentially novel regulatory mechanism. Together these results suggest an interplay between freeze tolerance and hyperglycemic regulation of DNA methylation.

Keywords: 5-methylcytosine; 5-méthylcytosine; Rana sylvatica; cryoprotection; epigenetics; hyperglycemia; hyperglycémie; épigénétique.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA Modification Methylases / metabolism*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Freezing
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Hyperglycemia / metabolism
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / enzymology
  • Ranidae / metabolism*


  • 5-Methylcytosine
  • DNA Modification Methylases
  • Glucose