Out in the cold and sick: low temperatures and fungal infections impair a frog's skin defenses.


Amphibians worldwide continue to battle an emerging infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, caused by (). Southern leopard frogs, , are known to become infected with this pathogen, yet they are considered 'of least concern' for declines due to chytridiomycosis. Previous studies have shown that secretes four antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) onto their skin which may play an important role in limiting susceptibility to chytridiomycosis. Here, we examined (1) the effects of temperature and AMP depletion on infections with and (2) the effects of temperature and infection on the capacity to secrete AMPs in juvenile leopard frogs. Pathogen burden and mortality were greater in frogs exposed to at low temperature but did not increase following monthly AMP depletion. Both low temperature and exposure reduced the capacity of juvenile frogs to restore peptides after monthly depletions. Frogs held at 14°C were poorly able to restore peptides in comparison with those at 26°C. Frogs held at 26°C were better able to restore their peptides, but when exposed to , this capacity was significantly reduced. These results strongly support the hypothesis that both colder temperatures and infection impair the capacity of juvenile frogs to produce and secrete AMPs, an important component of their innate defense against chytrid fungi and other pathogens. Thus, in the face of unpredictable climate changes and enzootic pathogens, assessments of disease risk should consider the potential for effects of environmental variation and pathogen exposure on the quality of host defenses.