This article is part of a special issue on epigenomics.

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Differential DNA methylation in discrete developmental stages of the parasitic nematode Trichinella spiralis

Fei Gao12, Xiaolei Liu1, Xiu-Ping Wu1, Xue-Lin Wang1, Desheng Gong2, Hanlin Lu2, Yudong Xia2, Yanxia Song1, Junwen Wang2, Jing Du1, Siyang Liu2, Xu Han2, Yizhi Tang1, Huanming Yang2, Qi Jin1*, Xiuqing Zhang2* and Mingyuan Liu1*

Author affiliations

1 Key Lab for Zoonosis Research, Ministry of Education, Institute of Zoonosis, Jilin University; Zoonosis Research Centre of State Key Lab for Molecular Virology and Genetic Engineering, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, 5333 Xi An Road, Changchun, 130062, China

2 Science and Technology Department, BGI-Shenzhen, Beishan Industrial Zone, Yantian District, Shenzhen 518083, China

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Citation and License

Genome Biology 2012, 13:R100  doi:10.1186/gb-2012-13-10-r100

Published: 17 October 2012



DNA methylation plays an essential role in regulating gene expression under a variety of conditions and it has therefore been hypothesized to underlie the transitions between life cycle stages in parasitic nematodes. So far, however, 5'-cytosine methylation has not been detected during any developmental stage of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Given the new availability of high-resolution methylation detection methods, an investigation of life cycle methylation in a parasitic nematode can now be carried out.


Here, using MethylC-seq, we present the first study to confirm the existence of DNA methylation in the parasitic nematode Trichinella spiralis, and we characterize the methylomes of the three life-cycle stages of this food-borne infectious human pathogen. We observe a drastic increase in DNA methylation during the transition from the new born to mature stage, and we further identify parasitism-related genes that show changes in DNA methylation status between life cycle stages.


Our data contribute to the understanding of the developmental changes that occur in an important human parasite, and raises the possibility that targeting DNA methylation processes may be a useful strategy in developing therapeutics to impede infection. In addition, our conclusion that DNA methylation is a mechanism for life cycle transition in T. spiralis prompts the question of whether this may also be the case in any other metazoans. Finally, our work constitutes the first report, to our knowledge, of DNA methylation in a nematode, prompting a re-evaluation of phyla in which this epigenetic mark was thought to be absent.