Population Differences in Host Immune Factors May Influence Survival of Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni ) during Plague Outbreaks

Author(s): Joseph D. Busch, Roger Van Andel, Jennifer Cordova, Rebecca E. Colman, Paul Keim, Tonie E. Rocke, Jeff G. Leid, William E. Van Pelt, and David M. Wagner

Publication: Journal of Wildlife Diseases

Publication Date: 2011

Abstract: Over the past 40 yr, epizootics of plague (Yersinia pestis) in northern Arizona have reduced populations of the Gunnison’s prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni), with the exception of a large population found in the Aubrey Valley (AV). To examine potential mechanisms accounting for their survival, we collected prairie dog serum samples in 2005– 2006 from AV and a neighboring population near Seligman (SE), Arizona. We quantified gene expression at 58 diverse immune proteins using a multiplexed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay panel. We found a subset of proteins important in coagulation and inflammation (tissue factor [TF], calbindin [Cal], and thrombopoietin [TPO]) and T-cell responses (CD40L and CD40) that were present in AV at levels two to eight times greater than SE. These results suggest that AV and SE animals might differ in their ability to mount an immune response. In recent years, there have been rapid advances in genetics and genomics, for both social insects and model organisms. Draft genome sequences have been published for a number of eusocial insects, including seven ant species [6–11], revealing myriad candidate genes for signal production and signal perception in colonymate recognition systems. At the same time, functional genetic tools offer powerful approaches to test hypotheses about the structure and function of recognition systems. Here, I discuss some of the ways that these recent advances may inform studies of recognition systems.

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