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Open AccessArticle

Transcriptomic Signatures of Experimental Alkaloid Consumption in a Poison Frog

Zoological Institute, Technische Universität Braunschweig, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
Institut fur Zoologie, Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover, 30559 Hannover, Germany
Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, 10115 Berlin, Germany
Biogeography Department, Trier University, 54296 Trier, Germany
Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, 24306 Plön, Germany
Department of Biology, John Carroll University, University Heights, OH 44118, USA
Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, and University of Vienna, A-1210 Vienna, Austria
Department of Integrative Zoology, University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria
Institute of Organic Chemistry, Technische Universität Braunschweig, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
Department of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Hull, Kingston-Upon Hull 01482, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to the manuscript.
Genes 2019, 10(10), 733;
Received: 11 July 2019 / Revised: 14 September 2019 / Accepted: 17 September 2019 / Published: 21 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evolutionary Genetics of Reptiles and Amphibians)
In the anuran family Dendrobatidae, aposematic species obtain their toxic or unpalatable alkaloids from dietary sources, a process known as sequestering. To understand how toxicity evolved in this family, it is paramount to elucidate the pathways of alkaloid processing (absorption, metabolism, and sequestering). Here, we used an exploratory skin gene expression experiment in which captive-bred dendrobatids were fed alkaloids. Most of these experiments were performed with Dendrobates tinctorius, but some trials were performed with D. auratus, D. leucomelas and Allobates femoralis to explore whether other dendrobatids would show similar patterns of gene expression. We found a consistent pattern of up-regulation of genes related to muscle and mitochondrial processes, probably due to the lack of mutations related to alkaloid resistance in these species. Considering conserved pathways of drug metabolism in vertebrates, we hypothesize alkaloid degradation is a physiological mechanism of resistance, which was evidenced by a strong upregulation of the immune system in D. tinctorius, and of complement C2 across the four species sampled. Probably related to this strong immune response, we found several skin keratins downregulated, which might be linked to a reduction of the cornified layer of the epidermis. Although not conclusive, our results offer candidate genes and testable hypotheses to elucidate alkaloid processing in poison frogs. View Full-Text
Keywords: Dendrobatidae; Aromobatidae; Dendrobates; Allobates; epibatidine; gene expression; feeding experiment; immune system; resistance Dendrobatidae; Aromobatidae; Dendrobates; Allobates; epibatidine; gene expression; feeding experiment; immune system; resistance
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Sanchez, E.; Rodríguez, A.; Grau, J.H.; Lötters, S.; Künzel, S.; Saporito, R.A.; Ringler, E.; Schulz, S.; Wollenberg Valero, K.C.; Vences, M. Transcriptomic Signatures of Experimental Alkaloid Consumption in a Poison Frog. Genes 2019, 10, 733.

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