Date of Graduation

Summer 2018


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Thomas Tomasi


white-nose syndrome, energetics, immunology, fibroblasts, RNA-seq

Subject Categories

Immunology of Infectious Disease | Integrative Biology | Other Genetics and Genomics | Other Physiology


White-nose syndrome (WNS) causes substantial mortality in certain species of hibernating North American bats. The responsible agent is Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), a fungus which causes physiological complications such as increased arousals and energy depletion during the hibernation season. Tricolored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) and northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) suffer extensive WNS mortality, while gray bats (Myotis grisescens) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) are infected, but mortality is rarely observed. It is hypothesized that there is a difference in immune responses and/or hibernation metabolism between these bat species, resulting in this interspecific variation in disease severity. To test these hypotheses, experiments were conducted at both the cellular and whole-bat level. Tricolored bats were infected with Pd and half were treated with an anti-inflammatory to mute any immune response. Data from measurements of torpor energetics did not support the hypothesis, but an immune response was observed in mid-hibernation, based on white blood cell counts. Also, wing tissue fibroblasts from the four species listed above were infected with Pd, and RNA-seq analysis revealed interspecific differences in gene expression in response to Pd. This study could aid in establishing treatment and conservation strategies for North American bats. In addition, a cell culture method has been pioneered that will allow researchers to address a myriad of immunological questions, such as which western bat species might be most susceptible to WNS as it spreads westward.


© Briana Nicole Anderson

Open Access