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Epigenetic clock and methylation studies in marsupials: opossums, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, and wallabies.


The opossum (Monodelphis domestica), with its sequenced genome, ease of laboratory care and experimental manipulation, and unique biology, is the most used laboratory marsupial. Using the mammalian methylation array, we generated DNA methylation data from n = 100 opossum samples from the ear, liver, and tail. We contrasted postnatal development and later aging effects in the opossum methylome with those in mouse (Mus musculus, C57BL/6 J strain) and other marsupial species such as Tasmanian devil, kangaroos, and wallabies. While the opossum methylome is similar to that of mouse during postnatal development, it is distinct from that shared by other mammals when it comes to the age-related gain of methylation at target sites of polycomb repressive complex 2. Our immunohistochemical staining results provide additional support for the hypothesis that PRC2 activity increases with later aging in mouse tissues but remains constant in opossum tissues. We present several epigenetic clocks for opossums that are distinguished by their compatibility with tissue type (pan-tissue and blood clock) and species (opossum and human). Two dual-species human-opossum pan-tissue clocks accurately measure chronological age and relative age, respectively. The human-opossum epigenetic clocks are expected to provide a significant boost to the attractiveness of opossum as a biological model. Additional epigenetic clocks for Tasmanian devil, red kangaroos and other species of the genus Macropus may aid species conservation efforts.

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