Identification and partial characterization of an elastolytic protease in the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

A. S. Moss, N. Carty, M. J. San Francisco

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Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a fungus that causes chytridiomycosis, a disease that has been implicated as a cause of amphibian population declines worldwide. Infected animals experience hyperkeratosis and sloughing of the epidermis due to penetration of the keratinized tissues by the fungus. These symptoms have led us to postulate that Bd produces proteases that play a role in the infection process. Here, we show that Bd is capable of degrading elastin in vitro, a protein found in the extracellular matrix of the host animal. Elastolytic enzyme activity was partially purified using ion exchange chromatography and size-exclusion filtration from cultures grown in inducing media. The elastolytic activity of the purified fraction had a pH optimum of 8, was strongly inhibited by EDTA and phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride (PMSF), and was partially inhibited by an elastasespecific inhibitor. This activity was also enhanced by the presence of Mg2+ and Ca 2+ but not Zn2+. An antiserum directed against Aspergillus fumigatus serine protease (Alp) was found to react with a polypeptide of approximately 110 kDa from the purified material. Using immunofluorescence, this antiserum was also observed to react with zoospores and sporangia grown on toad skin. These observations suggest that Bd may produce proteases similar to those produced by other pathogenic fungi that are capable of degrading proteins found in the extracellular matrix. The proteolytic activity exhibited in vitro might aid the organism in its ability to colonize and destroy the epidermis of its amphibian host.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-158
Number of pages10
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2010


  • Amphibians
  • Chytridiomycosis
  • Pathogenicity


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