White nose syndrome (WNS) is caused by the psychrophilic fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans that can grow in the environment saprotrophically or parasitically by infecting hibernating bats. Infections are pathological in many species of North American bats, disrupting hibernation and causing mortality. To determine what fungal pathways are involved in infection of living tissue, we examined fungal gene expression using RNA-Seq. We compared P. destructans gene expression when grown in culture to that during infection of a North American bat species, Myotis lucifugus, that shows high WNS mortality. Cultured P. destructans was grown at 10 to 14 C and P. destructans growing in vivo was presumably exposed to temperatures ranging from 4 to 8 C during torpor and up to 37 C during periodic arousals. We found that when P. destructans is causing WNS, the most significant differentially expressed genes were involved in heat shock responses, cell wall remodeling, and micronutrient acquisition. These results indicate that this fungal pathogen responds to host-pathogen interactions by regulating gene expression in ways that may contribute to evasion of host responses. Alterations in fungal cell wall structures could allow P. destructans to avoid detection by host pattern recognition receptors and antibody responses. This study has also identified several fungal pathways upregulated during WNS infection that may be candidates for mitigating infection pathology. By identifying host-specific pathogen responses, these observations have important implications for host-pathogen evolutionary relationships in WNS and other fungal diseases.
Link to Published Version
Reeder, Sophia M.; Palmer, Jonathan M.; Prokkola, Jenni M.; Lilley, Thomas M.; Reeder, DeeAnn M.; and Field, Ken. "Pseudogymnoascus destructans transcriptome changes during white-nose syndrome infections." Virulence (2017) : 1695-1707.