Lipolytic Activity and the Utilization of Fatty Acids Associated with Bat Sebum by Pseudogymnoascus destructans


Molecular and Cellular Biology

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Pseudogymnoascus destructans is the causative agent of a fungal infection of bats known as white-nose syndrome (WNS). Since its discovery in 2006, it has been responsible for precipitous declines of several species of cave-dwelling North American bats. While numerous advancements in the understanding of the disease processes underlying WNS have been made in recent years, there are still many aspects of WNS, particularly with respect to pathogen virulence, that remain unknown. In this preliminary investigation, we sought to further elucidate the disease cycle by concentrating on the pathogen, with specific focus on its ability to utilize lipids that compose bat wing sebum and are found in wing membranes, as a substrate for energy and growth. In vitro growth experiments were conducted with the three most common fatty acids that comprise bat sebum: oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids. None of the fatty acids were observed to contribute a significant difference in mean growth from controls grown on SDA, although morphological differences were observed in several instances. Additionally, as an accompaniment to the growth experiments, bat wing explants from Perimyotis subflavus and Eptesicus fuscus were fluorescently stained to visualize the difference in distribution of 16- and 18-carbon chain fatty acids in the wing membrane. Which substrates contribute to the growth of P. destructans is important to understanding the progressive impact P. destructans has on bat health through the course of the disease cycle.

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