, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 383–391 | Cite as

Role of Antimicrobial Peptides in Amphibian Defense Against Trematode Infection

  • Dana M. Calhoun
  • Doug Woodhams
  • Cierra Howard
  • Bryan E. LaFonte
  • Jacklyn R. Gregory
  • Pieter T. J. Johnson
Original Contribution


Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) contribute to the immune defenses of many vertebrates, including amphibians. As larvae, amphibians are often exposed to the infectious stages of trematode parasites, many of which must penetrate the host’s skin, potentially interacting with host AMPs. We tested the effects of the natural AMPs repertoires on both the survival of trematode infectious stages as well as their ability to infect larval amphibians. All five trematode species exhibited decreased survival of cercariae in response to higher concentrations of adult bullfrog AMPs, but no effect when exposed to AMPs from larval bullfrogs. Similarly, the use of norepinephrine to remove AMPs from larval bullfrogs, Pacific chorus frogs, and gray treefrogs had only weak (gray treefrogs) or non-significant (other tested species) effects on infection success by Ribeiroia ondatrae. We nonetheless observed strong differences in parasite infection as a function of both host stage (first- versus second-year bullfrogs) and host species (Pacific chorus frogs versus gray treefrogs) that were apparently unrelated to AMPs. Taken together, our results suggest that AMPs do not play a significant role in defending larval amphibians against trematode cercariae, but that they could be one mechanism helping to prevent infection of post-metamorphic amphibians, particularly for highly aquatic species.


disease ecology wildlife immunology antimicrobial peptides trematodes 



We thank Travis McDevitt-Galles, Jay Bowerman, and Chris Smith for collecting the snails and amphibians used in this study. We also thank Christina Garcia, Katherine Hardy, and Abigail Kimball for assisting with animal husbandry. Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (DEB-0841758), the National Institutes of Health (NIH-KK1408), and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana M. Calhoun
    • 1
  • Doug Woodhams
    • 2
  • Cierra Howard
    • 1
  • Bryan E. LaFonte
    • 3
  • Jacklyn R. Gregory
    • 1
  • Pieter T. J. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  3. 3.George Washington University Law SchoolGeorge Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA

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