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Tracing Antimicrobial peptides and Pheromones in the Amphibian Skin

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Molecules from amphibian skin

Chemical communication and molecular convergence was investigated by an EU-funded initiative studying molecules associated with the skin of amphibians.

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Most studies of amphibian skin peptides have a narrow pharmacological focus. As a result, the origin, diversity and different functions of these molecules remain poorly understood and antimicrobial peptide research in amphibians has been limited to a few closely related genera. Despite behavioural tests showing chemical communication during courtship in many amphibians, only a single peptide has been characterised in frogs and toads and two peptides characterised in salamanders and newts. This situation was addressed by the TAPAS (Tracing antimicrobial peptides and pheromones in the amphibian skin) project. The initiative showed that adaptive evolution in distantly related amphibian taxa may lead to striking molecular convergence and eventually culminate in ideal gene products. For example, studies revealed that multiple keratins that make up the amphibian toe pad belong to different keratin lineages, which evolved in an early tetrapod ancestor. These then evolved to become the main keratin types of human hair. Multiple studies also revealed that chemical communication was more important to frog and salamander communication than previously believed. In addition, the protein families that guide chemical courtship in these amphibians share very similar structural characteristics and evolutionary diversification patterns. TAPAS also helped to identify a new fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans sp. Nov., which causes lethal skin infections. The pathogen is responsible for a steep decline in salamander population in northwestern Europe.


Amphibian skin peptides, antimicrobial, courtship, TAPAS, molecular convergence, keratin, chemical communication, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans sp. nov

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