Genomic investigations of acute munitions exposures on the health and skin microbiome composition of leopard frog (Rana pipiens) tadpoles

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Gust KA, Indest KJ, Lotufo G, Everman SJ, Jung CM, Ballentine ML, Hoke AV, Sowe B, Gautam A, Hammamieh R, Ji Q, Barker ND
Environmental research
Amphibian health, Amphibian skin microbiome, Aquatic ecotoxicology, Munitions constituents, Transcript expression
Natural communities of microbes inhabiting amphibian skin, the skin microbiome, are critical to supporting amphibian health and disease resistance. To enable the pro-active health assessment and management of amphibians on Army installations and beyond, we investigated the effects of acute (96h) munitions exposures to Rana pipiens (leopard frog) tadpoles and the associated skin microbiome, integrated with RNAseq-based transcriptomic responses in the tadpole host. Tadpoles were exposed to the legacy munition 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), the new insensitive munition (IM) formulation, IMX-101, and the IM constituents nitroguinidine (NQ) and 1-methyl-3-nitroguanidine (MeNQ). The 96h LC50 values and 95% confidence intervals were 2.6 (2.4, 2.8) for ΣTNT and 68.2 (62.9, 73.9) for IMX-101, respectively. The NQ and MeNQ exposures caused no significant impacts on survival in 96h exposures even at maximum exposure levels of 3560 and 5285 mg/L, respectively. However, NQ and MeNQ, as well as TNT and IMX-101 exposures, all elicited changes in the tadpole skin microbiome profile, as evidenced by significantly increased relative proportions of the Proteobacteria with increasing exposure concentrations, and significantly decreased alpha-diversity in the NQ exposure. The potential for direct effects of munitions exposure on the skin microbiome were observed including increased abundance of munitions-tolerant phylogenetic groups, in addition to possible indirect effects on microbial flora where transcriptional responses suggestive of changes in skin mucus-layer properties, antimicrobial peptide production, and innate immune factors were observed in the tadpole host. Additional insights into the tadpole host's transcriptional response to munitions exposures indicated that TNT and IMX-101 exposures significantly enriched transcriptional expression within type-I and type-II xenobiotic metabolism pathways, where dose-responsive increases in expression were observed. Significant enrichment and increased transcriptional expression of heme and iron binding functions in the TNT exposures served as likely indicators of known mechanisms of TNT toxicity including hemolytic anemia and methemoglobinemia. The significant enrichment and dose-responsive decrease in transcriptional expression of cell cycle pathways in the IMX-101 exposures was consistent with previous observations in fish, while significant enrichment of immune-related function in response to NQ exposure were consistent with potential immune suppression at the highest NQ exposure concentration. Finally, the MeNQ exposures elicited significantly decreased transcriptional expression of keratin 16, type I, a gene likely involved in keratinization processes in amphibian skin. Overall, munitions showed the potential to alter tadpole skin microbiome composition and affect transcriptional profiles in the amphibian host, some suggestive of potential impacts on host health and immune status relevant to disease susceptibility.