DNA Methylation and Sex Allocation in the Parasitoid Wasp Nasonia vitripennis.

The American naturalist

PubMedID: 26655574

Cook N, Pannebakker BA, Tauber E, Shuker DM. DNA Methylation and Sex Allocation in the Parasitoid Wasp Nasonia vitripennis. Am Nat. 2015;186(4):513-8.
The role of epigenetics in the control and evolution of behavior is being increasingly recognized. Here we test whether DNA methylation influences patterns of adaptive sex allocation in the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis. Female N. vitripennis allocate offspring sex broadly in line with local mate competition (LMC) theory. However, recent theory has highlighted how genomic conflict may influence sex allocation under LMC, conflict that requires parent-of-origin information to be retained by alleles through some form of epigenetic signal. We manipulated whole-genome DNA methylation in N. vitripennis females using the hypomethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. Across two replicated experiments, we show that disruption of DNA methylation does not ablate the facultative sex allocation response of females, as sex ratios still vary with cofoundress number as in the classical theory. However, sex ratios are generally shifted upward when DNA methylation is disrupted. Our data are consistent with predictions from genomic conflict over sex allocation theory and suggest that sex ratios may be closer to the optimum for maternally inherited alleles.