BACKGROUND - Many species of frogs secrete cutaneous antimicrobial peptides that are capable of killing Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Some of these species are nonetheless susceptible to chytridiomycosis, suggesting that host factors causing dysregulation of this innate immune response may be important in pathogenesis. Since stresses, such as from environmental perturbations, are a potential cause of such dysregulation, this study investigated the effect of glucocorticoid on cutaneous gene expression of these antimicrobial peptides.
RESULTS - Northern leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens) were injected with either the corticosteroid methylprednisolone or saline every 48 h. Norepinephrine-elicited cutaneous secretions were collected every 8 days for 40 days. Gene expression of antimicrobial peptides (brevinin-1P and ranatuerin-2P) in the cutaneous secretions was measured relative to the reference genes EF1-α and RPL8 using quantitative RT-PCR. Corticosteroid treatment was associated with a significant increase in brevinin-1P gene expression, which was most notable at 24-40 days of corticosteroid administration. Ranatuerin-2P expression followed a similar but non-significant trend.
CONCLUSION - This treatment protocol, including corticosteroid-administration and frequent norepinephrine-induced secretion, increased AMP gene expression in the skin of L. pipiens under these experimental conditions. The findings do not support the hypothesis that environmental stress predisposes frogs to chytridiomycosis by causing glucocorticoid-induced suppression of antimicrobial peptide defences.