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EIDpop — Result In Brief

Project ID: 327293
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: United Kingdom

Frogs reveal link between genetics, behaviour and disease

Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), which are increasing around the world, are believed to be responsible for declining populations and extinction in a number of species. An EU-funded initiative using citizen scientists investigated how EIDs can affect the genetic structure of a population.
Frogs reveal link between genetics, behaviour and disease
Diseases can cause major changes to the genetic composition of host populations, while the genetic composition of host populations can influence the impact of the disease. In, addition disease can lead to changes in mate choice behaviour, which will also alter the population structure, again influencing the impact of the disease. However, research into this area has been limited.

The EIDPOP (Emerging infectious disease and population genetic structure) project filled the knowledge gap by investigating the interactions between genes, behaviour and disease. Researchers used a model vertebrate host pathogen system involving Ranavirus, an EU notifiable disease known to contribute to population decline in common frogs (Rana temporaria) in the UK.

Transcriptomics is the study of which genes are read and translated into proteins. This approach was used to investigate the interactions between genetics, behaviour and disease in the R. temporaria - Ranavirus infection system, which could be studied both in the field and the laboratory.

Citizen scientists helped to sample garden ponds in the UK, which were identified as either positive or negative for Ranavirus infection. Experimental tanks were established at each site and the pond owners asked to wait for their frogs to begin mating then placed pairs of mating frogs into individual tanks.

Once the frogs had spawned samples were taken from the parents and the egg mass. This method enabled mate choice to occur freely, while enabling sampling of the parents and offspring.

Results showed that populations that had not been previously exposed to the virus were less able to mount an effective immune response. Different responses to infection in frogs from infected and uninfected sites and between individual clutches were most likely due to genetic differences.

An additional study revealed that Ranavirus causes changes to the way genes are read and translated into proteins (gene expression). These results provide valuable insights into gene expression changes under pathogen infection and suggest potentially interesting genes for further host pathogen research.

EIDOP increased understanding of the wider evolutionary impacts of disease on populations and the genomic level response to Ranavirus. The projects findings also will contribute to future research into how the immune system fights disease.

Related information


Emerging infectious diseases, population, Ranavirus, Rana temporaria, transcriptomics, citizen scientists
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