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Keywords:

  • amphibian;
  • antimicrobial peptide;
  • Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis;
  • chytridiomycosis;
  • innate immunity;
  • skin;
  • susceptibility

Abstract

Innate immune mechanisms of defense are especially important to ectothermic vertebrates in which adaptive immune responses may be slow to develop. One innate defense in amphibian skin is the release of abundant quantities of antimicrobial peptides. Chytridiomycosis is an emerging infectious disease of amphibians caused by the skin fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Susceptibility to chytridiomycosis varies among species, and mechanisms of disease resistance are not well understood. Previously, we have shown that Australian and Panamanian amphibian species that possess skin peptides that effectively inhibit the growth of B. dendrobatidis in vitro tend to survive better in the wild or are predicted to survive the first encounter with this lethal pathogen. For most species, it has been difficult to experimentally infect individuals with B. dendrobatidis and directly evaluate both survival and antimicrobial peptide defenses. Here, we demonstrate differences in susceptibility to chytridiomycosis among four Australian species (Litoria caerulea, Litoria chloris, Mixophyes fasciolatus and Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) after experimental infection with B. dendrobatidis, and show that the survival rate increases with the in vitro effectiveness of the skin peptides. We also observed that circulating granulocyte, but not lymphocyte, counts differed between infected and uninfected Lit. chloris. This suggests that innate granulocyte defenses may be activated by pathogen exposure. Taken together, our data suggest that multiple innate defense mechanisms are involved in resistance to chytridiomycosis, and the efficacy of these defenses varies by amphibian species.