Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences
The health and resilience of species in natural environments is increasingly challenged by complex anthropogenic stressor combinations including climate change, habitat encroachment, and chemical contamination. To better understand impacts of these stressors we examined the individual- and combined-stressor impacts of malaria infection, food limitation, and 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) exposures on gene expression in livers of Western fence lizards (WFL, Sceloporus occidentalis) using custom WFL transcriptome-based microarrays.
Computational analysis including annotation enrichment and correlation analysis identified putative functional mechanisms linking transcript expression and toxicological phenotypes. TNT exposure increased transcript expression for genes involved in erythropoiesis, potentially in response to TNT-induced anemia and/or methemoglobinemia and caused dose-specific effects on genes involved in lipid and overall energy metabolism consistent with a hormesis response of growth stimulation at low doses and adverse decreases in lizard growth at high doses. Functional enrichment results were indicative of inhibited potential for lipid mobilization and catabolism in TNT exposures which corresponded with increased inguinal fat weights and was suggestive of a decreased overall energy budget. Malaria infection elicited enriched expression of multiple immune-related functions likely corresponding to increased white blood cell (WBC) counts. Food limitation alone enriched functions related to cellular energy production and decreased expression of immune responses consistent with a decrease in WBC levels.
Despite these findings, the lizards demonstrated immune resilience to malaria infection under food limitation with transcriptional results indicating a fully competent immune response to malaria, even under bio-energetic constraints. Interestingly, both TNT and malaria individually increased transcriptional expression of immune-related genes and increased overall WBC concentrations in blood; responses that were retained in the TNT x malaria combined exposure. The results demonstrate complex and sometimes unexpected responses to multiple stressors where the lizards displayed remarkable resiliency to the stressor combinations investigated.
Gust, K. A.,
Wilbanks, M. S.,
Barker, N. D.,
Scanlan, L. D.,
Talent, L. G.,
Quinn, M. J.,
Vulpe, C. D.,
Elasri, M. O.,
Johnson, M. S.,
Perkins, E. J.,
McFarland, C. A.
(2018). Multiple Environmental Stressors Induce Complex Transcriptomic Responses Indicative of Phenotypic Outcomes in Western Fence Lizard. BMC Genomics, 19(877), 1-20.
Available at: https://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/15710