Host immune responses to enzootic and invasive pathogen lineages vary in magnitude, timing, and efficacy

Coby A. McDonald, C. Guilherme Becker, Carolina Lambertini, L. Felipe Toledo, Célio F.B. Haddad, Kelly R. Zamudio

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1 Scopus citations


Infectious diseases of wildlife continue to pose a threat to biodiversity worldwide, yet pathogens are far from uniform in virulence or host disease outcome. Within the same pathogen species, virulence can vary considerably depending on strain or lineage, in turn eliciting variable host responses. One pathogen that has caused extensive biodiversity loss is the amphibian-killing fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which is comprised of a globally widespread hypervirulent lineage (Bd-GPL), and multiple geographically restricted, enzootic lineages. Whereas host immunogenomic responses to Bd-GPL have been characterized in a number of amphibian species, immunogenomic responses to geographically restricted, enzootic Bd lineages are less clear. To examine lineage-specific host immune responses to Bd, we exposed a species of pumpkin toadlet, Brachycephalus pitanga, which is endemic to Brazil's Southern Atlantic Forest, to either the Bd-GPL or the enzootic Bd-Asia-2/Brazil (hereafter Bd-Brazil) lineage. Using temporal samples from early, mid, and late infection stages, we quantified functional immunogenomic responses over the course of infection using differential gene expression tests and coexpression network analyses. Host immune responses varied significantly with Bd lineage. Relative to controls, toadlet responses to Bd-Brazil were weak at early infection (25 genes significantly differentially expressed), peaked by mid-stage infection (414 genes), and were nearly fully resolved by late-stage infection (nine genes). In contrast, responses to Bd-GPL were magnified and delayed; toadlets significantly differentially expressed 111 genes early, 87 genes at mid-stage infection, and 726 genes by late-stage infection relative to controls. Given that infection intensity did not vary between mid- and late-stage disease in either Bd-Brazil or Bd-GPL treatments, this suggests that pumpkin toadlets may be at least partially tolerant to the enzootic Bd-Brazil lineage. In contrast, late-stage immune activation against Bd-GPL was consistent with immune dysregulation previously observed in other species. Our results demonstrate that both the timing of immune response and the particular immune pathways activated are specific to Bd lineage. Within regions where multiple Bd lineages co-occur, and given continued global Bd movement, these differential host responses may influence not only individual disease outcome, but transmission dynamics at the population and community levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2252-2270
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics

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