Epigenetic mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity induced by multiple abiotic stressors: harsh environment and insensitive munitions

Epigenetic mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity induced by multiple abiotic stressors: harsh environment and insensitive munitionsCapabilitiesThis project will build up a new ERDC capability in environmental epigenetics. It addresses the needs of mechanism-based and more accurate environmental risk assessment (ERA) of military unique substances (MUS) and activities. Environment-induced epigenetic imprinting is an emerging issue in ERA, especially under multi-stressor, long-term (transgenerational) and low-concentration scenarios. Findings from this study can help improve our understanding of dynamic interactions between environment and epigenome and of the role that phenotypic plasticity plays in evolutionary and ecological processes of stress adaptation, divergence and speciation. As an emerging epigenetic model organism, the parthenogenetic life cycle of Daphnia pulex allows the study of epigenetic effects without confounding genetic variations. Using D. pulex as the experimental model and DNAN as the representative military unique chemical, we plan to elucidate epigenetic mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity in response to or in perceiving environmental stressors associated with military activities. In addition, we will use a gene editing technique to disrupt select genes for functional validation. The identified and characterized epigenetically mediated genes can serve as biomarkers of environmental exposure to MUS like munitions compounds.StatusThis project is a new start of FY17 and will run for three years.Lessons Learned or Success StoriesCurrently unavailable because this work has just started.Get it hereDuring and at the end of the project, research findings will be disseminated at relevant conferences and in three peer-reviewed journal articles.2017 – Epigenetic regulation is responsible for inherited chemical tolerance. Epigenetics.2018 – Epigenetic characterization and transgenerational inheritance dynamics of phenotypic plasticity. Heredity.2019 – Biological functions of epigenetically modified genes. GeneticsDocumentation and ReferencesThe citations of anticipated journal articles will be provided when they are published.Other documents describing background or research activities such as Project Management Plan (PMP) and full research proposal are available through Technical Director’s Office.Team MembersMr. Alan KennedyDr. Scoty HearstMs. Lauren RabalaisMs. Natalie BarkerPrincipal Investigator (PI)POC: Dr. Ping Gong, Environmental LaboratoryKeywordsEpigenetics, Phenotypic plasticity, Transgenerational inheritance, Acquired traits, Insensitive munitions, Multiple environmental stressors, Histone modification, DNA methylation, Chemical tolerance, Sexual reproduction, Asexual reproduction, Daphnia pulex, Multi-generational exposure, Heritable epigenetic modification, Gene disruption, Gene knockout, Genome editing (CRISPR-Cas9).Photos, Graphics, Tables (attach or insert to document)Captions: Overview of workflow for the proposed project. Shown is the study design for one population. HE = harsh environment; PC = positive control. Wiki Categories

  1. ERDC Business Areas
  • Environmental Quality and Installations (EQI)


  1. ERDC Laboratories
  • Environmental Laboratory (EL)

 III. USACE Missions

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  • Environment
  1. Military Missions
  • Installation Support: Environment


  1. ERDC Science and Technology Areas
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  • Environmental Processes
  • Environmental Risk Assessment