A novel approach to wildlife transcriptomics provides evidence of disease-mediated differential expression and changes to the microbiome of amphibian populations.
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Ranaviruses are responsible for a lethal, emerging infectious disease in amphibians and threaten their populations throughout the world. Despite this, little is known about how amphibian populations respond to ranaviral infection. In the United Kingdom, ranaviruses impact the common frog (Rana temporaria). Extensive public engagement in the study of ranaviruses in the UK has led to the formation of a unique system of field sites containing frog populations of known ranaviral disease history. Within this unique natural field system, we used RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to compare the gene expression profiles of R. temporaria populations with a history of ranaviral disease and those without. We have applied a RNA read filtering protocol that incorporates Bloom filters, previously used in clinical settings, to limit the potential for contamination that comes with the use of RNA-Seq in non-laboratory systems. We have identified a suite of 407 transcripts that are differentially expressed between populations of different ranaviral disease history. This suite contains genes with functions related to immunity, development, protein transport and olfactory reception amongst others. A large proportion of potential non-coding RNA transcripts present in our differentially expressed set provides first evidence of a possible role for long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) in amphibian response to viruses. Our read-filtering approach also removed significantly more bacterial reads from libraries generated from postitive disease history populations. Subsequent analysis revealed these bacterial read sets to represent distinct communities of bacterial species, which is suggestive of an interaction between ranavirus and the host microbiome in the wild. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Funding for this work came from a Marie Curie Fellowship awarded to Amber Griffiths and a Natural Environment Research Council PhD Studentship held by Lewis Campbell.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Wiley via the DOI in this record.
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