Jiménez, Randall R., et al. “Inhibitory Bacterial Diversity and Mucosome Function Differentiate Susceptibility of Appalachian Salamanders to Chytrid Fungal Infection.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 88.8 (2022): e01818-21. https://doi.org/10.1128/aem.01818-21
Mucosal defenses are crucial in animals for protection against pathogens and predators. Host defense peptides (antimicrobial peptides, AMPs) as well as skin-associated microbes are key components of mucosal immunity, particularly in amphibians. We integrate microbiology, molecular biology, network-thinking, and proteomics to understand how host and microbially derived products on amphibian skin (referred to as the mucosome) serve as pathogen defenses. We studied defense mechanisms against chytrid pathogens, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and B. salamandrivorans (Bsal), in four salamander species with different Batrachochytrium susceptibilities. Bd infection was quantified using qPCR, mucosome function (i.e., ability to kill Bd or Bsal zoospores in vitro), skin bacterial communities using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, and the role of Bd-inhibitory bacteria in microbial networks across all species. We explored the presence of candidate-AMPs in eastern newts and red-backed salamanders. Eastern newts had the highest Bd prevalence and mucosome function, while red-back salamanders had the lowest Bd prevalence and mucosome function, and two-lined salamanders and seal salamanders were intermediates. Salamanders with highest Bd infection intensity showed greater mucosome function. Bd infection prevalence significantly decreased as putative Bd-inhibitory bacterial richness and relative abundance increased on hosts. In co-occurrence networks, some putative Bd-inhibitory bacteria were found as hub-taxa, with red-backs having the highest proportion of protective hubs and positive associations related to putative Bd-inhibitory hub bacteria. We found more AMP candidates on salamanders with lower Bd susceptibility. These findings suggest that salamanders possess distinct innate mechanisms that affect chytrid fungi.