DNA methylation plays a significant role in transducing external environmental signals to a cellular response in reptiles; however, whether the methylation patterns are conserved across species remains unclear. Here, we examined the genome-wide DNA methylation differentiation between male and female hatchling gonads of the temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) Mauremys mutica (M. mutica) using methylation-dependent restriction-site associated DNA sequencing (MethylRAD-seq) to test differentially methylated genes underlying sexual development. Several categories, including heat-shock genes (HSP90A, HSP30C), histone- (KDM8) and ubiquitin-related genes (TRIM39), kinases (WNK3), and gonad differentiation or gonadal-development-related genes (HSD17B8, HSD17B12), were identified as candidates for future study. Additionally, we identified several regulatory pathways potentially mediating TSD thermosensitivity such as the GnRH signaling pathway and calcium signaling pathway. These findings provide evidence that sexually dimorphic DNA methylation may be associated with sex determination or sex differentiation in TSD M. mutica.
Affected by temperature, several genes (heat-shock genes, histone- and ubiquitin-related genes, kinase-related genes), and pathways (GnRH signaling pathway and calcium signaling pathway) of TSD (M. mutica) may change the methylation level of the regulatory regions, which revealed that sexually dimorphic DNA methylation could act as a key mediator regulating thermosensitive signals into a molecular trigger to determine sexual fate.