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Publication Date

January 2014


White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is an emerging infectious mycosis that has impacted multiple species of North American bats since its initial discovery in 2006, yet the physiology of the causal agent, the psychrophilic fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans ( = Geomyces destructans), is not well understood. We investigated the ability of P. destructans to secrete enzymes that could permit environmental growth or affect pathogenesis and compared enzyme activity across several Pseudogymnoascus species isolated from both hibernating bats and cave sediments. We found that P. destructans produced enzymes that could be beneficial in either a pathogenic or saprotrophic context, such as lipases, hemolysins, and urease, as well as chitinase and cellulases, which could aid in saprotrophic growth. The WNS pathogen showed significantly lower activity for urease and endoglucanase compared to con-generic species (Pseudogymnoascus), which may indicate a shift in selective pressure to the detriment of P. destructans’ saprotrophic ability. Based on the positive function of multiple saprotrophic enzymes, the causal agent of White-nose Syndrome shows potential for environmental growth on a variety of substrates found in caves, albeit at a reduced level compared to environmental strains. Our data suggest that if P. destructans emerged as an opportunistic infection from an environmental source, co-evolution with its host may have led to a reduced capacity for saprotrophic growth.


Wns, Pseudogymnoascus Destructans, Geomyces Destructans, Co-Evolution







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