Major gene expression changes and epigenetic remodelling in Nile tilapia muscle after just one generation of domestication

Epigenetics. 2020 Oct;15(10):1052-1067. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2020.1748914. Epub 2020 Apr 7.


The historically recent domestication of fishes has been essential to meet the protein demands of a growing human population. Selection for traits of interest during domestication is a complex process whose epigenetic basis is poorly understood. Cytosine hydroxymethylation is increasingly recognized as an important DNA modification involved in epigenetic regulation. In the present study, we investigated if hydroxymethylation plays a role in fish domestication and demonstrated for the first time at a genome-wide level and single nucleotide resolution that the muscle hydroxymethylome changes after a single generation of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus, Linnaeus) domestication. The overall decrease in hydroxymethylcytosine levels was accompanied by the downregulation of 2015 genes in fish reared in captivity compared to their wild progenitors. In contrast, several myogenic and metabolic genes that can affect growth potential were upregulated. There were 126 differentially hydroxymethylated cytosines between groups, which were not due to genetic variation; they were associated with genes involved in immune-, growth- and neuronal-related pathways. Taken together, our data unveil a new role for DNA hydroxymethylation in epigenetic regulation of fish domestication with impact in aquaculture and implications in artificial selection, environmental adaptation and genome evolution.

Keywords: Oreochromis niloticus; DNA hydroxymethylation; Domestication; epigenetics; muscle growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine / analogs & derivatives
  • 5-Methylcytosine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Domestication*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Fish Proteins / genetics
  • Fish Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Selective Breeding
  • Tilapia / genetics*


  • Fish Proteins
  • 5-hydroxymethylcytosine
  • 5-Methylcytosine