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  • Animal African trypanosomosis, caused by blood protozoan parasites transmitted mainly by tsetse flies, represents a major constraint for millions of cattle in sub-Saharan Africa. Exposed cattle include trypanosusceptible indicine breeds, severely affected by the disease, and West African taurine breeds called trypanotolerant owing to their ability to control parasite development, survive and grow in enzootic areas. Until now the genetic basis of trypanotolerance remains unclear. Here, to improve knowledge of the biological processes involved in trypanotolerance versus trypanosusceptibility, we identified bovine genes differentially expressed in five West African cattle breeds during an experimental infection by Trypanosoma congolense and their biological functions. To this end, whole blood genome-wide transcriptome of three trypanotolerant taurine breeds (N’Dama, Lagune and Baoulé), one susceptible zebu (Zebu Fulani) and one African taurine x zebu admixed breed (Borgou) were profiled by RNA sequencing at four time points, one before and three during infection. As expected, infection had a major impact on cattle blood transcriptome regardless of the breed. The functional analysis of differentially expressed genes over time in each breed confirmed an early activation of the innate immune response, followed by an activation of the humoral response and an inhibition of T cell functions at the chronic stage of infection. More importantly, we highlighted overlooked features, such as a strong disturbance in host metabolism and cellular energy production that differentiates trypanotolerant and trypanosusceptible breeds. N’Dama breed showed the earliest regulation of immune response, associated with a strong activation of cellular energy production, also observed in Lagune, and to a lesser extent in Baoulé. Susceptible Zebu Fulani breed differed from other breeds by the strongest modification in lipid metabolism regulation. Overall, this study provides a better understanding of the biological mechanisms at work during infection, especially concerning the interplay between immunity and metabolism that seems differentially regulated depending on the cattle breeds.

  • Evolutionary Biology

    Heterogeneities in infection outcomes across species: sex and tissue differences in virus susceptibility

    10.24072/pcjournal.242 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article no. e16.

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    Species vary in their susceptibility to pathogens, and this can alter the ability of a pathogen to infect a novel host. However, many factors can generate heterogeneity in infection outcomes, obscuring our ability to understand pathogen emergence. Such heterogeneities can alter the consistency of responses across individuals and host species. For example, sexual dimorphism in susceptibility means males are often intrinsically more susceptible than females (although this can vary by host and pathogen). Further, we know little about whether the tissues infected by a pathogen in one host are the same in another species, and how this relates to the harm a pathogen does to its host. Here, we first take a comparative approach to examine sex differences in susceptibility across 31 species of Drosophilidae infected with Drosophila C Virus (DCV). We found a strong positive inter-specific correlation in viral load between males and females, with a close to 1:1 relationship, suggesting that susceptibility to DCV across species is not sex specific. Next, we made comparisons of the tissue tropism of DCV across seven species of fly. We found differences in viral load between the tissues of the seven host species, but no evidence of tissues showing different patterns of susceptibility in different host species. We conclude that, in this system, patterns of viral infectivity across host species are robust between males and females, and susceptibility in a given host is general across tissue types.

  • Strong phenological shifts in response to changes in climatic conditions have been reported for many species, including amphibians, which are expected to breed earlier. Phenological shifts in breeding are observed in a wide number of amphibian populations, but less is known about populations living at high elevations, which are predicted to be more sensitive to climate change than lowland populations. The goal of this study is to assess the main factors determining the timing of breeding in an alpine population of the common toad (Bufo bufo) and to describe the observed shifts in its breeding phenology. We modelled the effect of environmental variables on the start and peak dates of the breeding season using 39 years of individual-based data. In addition, we investigated the effect of the lunar cycle, as well as the individual variation in breeding phenology. Finally, to assess the individual heterogeneity in the timing of breeding, we calculated the repeatability of the timing of arrival at the breeding site. Breeding advanced to earlier dates in the first years of the study but the trend continued only until the mid 1990s, and stabilised afterwards. Overall, toads are now breeding on average around 30 days earlier than at the start of the study period. High temperatures and low snow cover in winter and spring, as well as reduced spring precipitation were all associated with earlier breeding. Additionally, we found evidence of males arriving on average before females at the breeding site but no clear and strong effect of the lunar cycle. We only found weak evidence of among-individual variation in shifts in the breeding phenology, as well as a low repeatability of arrival timing. Our findings show that the observed changes in breeding phenology are strongly associated with the environmental conditions. These results contribute to filling a knowledge gap on the effects of climate change on alpine amphibian populations. Moreover, we show that changes in phenology, especially in the mountains, can be hard to predict as local microclimatic conditions do not necessarily reflect the observed global climatic trends.

  • Large regions of suppressed recombination having extended over time occur in many organisms around genes involved in mating compatibility (sex-determining or mating-type genes). The sheltering of deleterious alleles has been proposed to be involved in such expansions. However, the dynamics of deleterious mutations partially linked to genes involved in mating compatibility are not well understood, especially in finite populations. In particular, under what conditions deleterious mutations are likely to be maintained for long enough near mating-compatibility genes remains to be evaluated, especially under selfing, which generally increases the purging rate of deleterious mutations. Using a branching process approximation, we studied the fate of a new deleterious or overdominant mutation in a diploid population, considering a locus carrying two permanently heterozygous mating-type alleles, and a partially linked locus at which the mutation appears. We obtained analytical and numerical results on the probability and purging time of the new mutation. We investigated the impact of recombination between the two loci and of the mating system (outcrossing, intra and inter-tetrad selfing) on the maintenance of the mutation. We found that the presence of a fungal-like mating-type locus (i.e. not preventing diploid selfing) always sheltered the mutation under selfing, i.e. it decreased the purging probability and increased the purging time of the mutations. The sheltering effect was higher in case of automixis (intra-tetrad selfing). This may contribute to explain why evolutionary strata of recombination suppression near the mating-type locus are found mostly in automictic (pseudo-homothallic) fungi. We also showed that rare events of deleterious mutation maintenance during strikingly long evolutionary times could occur, suggesting that deleterious mutations can indeed accumulate near the mating-type locus over evolutionary time scales. In conclusion, our results show that, although selfing purges deleterious mutations, these mutations can be maintained for very long times near a mating-type locus, which may contribute to promote the evolution of recombination suppression in sex-related chromosomes.

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