In a study conducted at the University of Idaho, scientists found that the immune system of the study’s frog species failed to respond to the chytrid fungus known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). In fact, it appears the fungal infection may actually suppress its victim’s immune system.
The findings are reported in a paper recently published in the Public Library of Science online edition (PLoS ONE), an interactive open-access journal for the communication of all peer-reviewed scientific and medical research.
“The biggest thing we found was a surprising lack of response by the frogs,” said Erica Bree Rosenblum, assistant professor of biological sciences and lead author of the study. “If you are hit with a deadly disease, you would expect that your body would do something about it. But we found that these frogs are not turning on immune function genes the way you would expect them to.”
Bd is an ancient fungus that only recently began killing frogs around the world. It lives inside of a frog’s skin, wreaking havoc by some unknown mechanism. Previous studies have shown that once Bd is introduced to a habitat, up to 50 percent of amphibian species and 80 percent of individuals can die within one year.
Scientists do not know how or why Bd kills its host, so Rosenblum is attacking the problem through genetics.
The study examined gene expression in the skin, liver and spleen of infected frogs of the species Silurana (Xenopus) tropicalis – a species highly susceptible to Bd – both three days after exposure and shortly before death. The skin was studied to determine what mechanisms cause frogs to die, while the liver and spleen were chosen to study the immune system’s response to the fungus.
Results found that not only are the genes related to immune response in infected frogs not turning on, but those genes are actually being suppressed.
“And that is the exact opposite of what one would expect to find,” said Rosenblum.
Besides the immune system, the study also looked at the frog’s skin to determine what processes, if any, are responsible for what amounts to a skin infection killing a vertebrate. This is a rare occurrence because, after all, humans don’t die from fungal skin conditions such as ringworm. So why should a fungal skin infection cause frogs to croak?
Though the study did not find any smoking guns, it did point to some disrupted genes in the frog’s skin; an organ that is much more important to an aquatic animal’s health than a land lover’s.
Other disrupted genes seem to affect cellular detoxification, which could make the frogs susceptible to toxins created by the fungus, the natural environment, or both.
According to Rosenblum, though this study is not good news for frogs, and only encompasses one species in a controlled environment, it is an important piece of the puzzle.
“This study is not the answer but it is a necessary first step to help us find the answer, said Rosenblum. “The next step in finding this answer involves further research on the generality of these findings in other species and other conditions.”The research paper can be found online at:
Ken Kingery | Newswise Science News
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy