Pseudogymnoascus destructans is an ascomycetous fungus responsible for the disease dubbed white-nose syndrome (WNS) and massive mortalities of cave-dwelling bats. The fungus infects bat epidermal tissue, causing damage to integumentary cells and pilosebaceous units. Differences in epidermal lipid composition caused by P. destructans infection could have drastic consequences for a variety of physiological functions, including innate immune efficiency and water retention. While bat surface lipid and stratum corneum lipid composition have been described, the differences in epidermal lipid content between healthy tissue and P. destructans–infected tissue have not been documented. In this study, we analyzed the effect of wing damage from P. destructans infection on the epidermal polar lipid composition (glycerophospholipids [GPs] and sphingomyelin) of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus). We hypothesized that infection would lead to lower levels of total lipid or higher oxidized lipid product proportions. Polar lipids from three damaged and three healthy wing samples were profiled by electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry. We found lower total broad lipid levels in damaged tissue, specifically ether-linked phospholipids, lysophospholipids, phosphatidylcholine, and phosphatidylethanolamine. Thirteen individual GP species from four broad GP classes were present in higher amounts in healthy tissue. Six unsaturated GP species were absent in damaged tissue. Our results confirm that P. destructans infection leads to altered lipid profiles. Clinical signs of WNS may include lower lipid levels and lower proportions of unsaturated lipids due to cellular and glandular damage.
Pannkuk, E. L., McGuire, L. P., Warnecke, L., Turner, J. M., Willis, C. K. R., & Risch, T. S. (2015). Glycerophospholipid profiles of bats with White-Nose Syndrome. Physiological Zoology, 88(4), 425-432. https://doi.org/10.1086/681931