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Dis Aquat Organ. 2005 Dec 30;68(1):51-63.

Life cycle stages of the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

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Amphibian Disease Ecology Group, School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.


An overview of the morphology and life cycle of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the cause of chytridiomycosis of amphibians, is presented. We used a range of methods to examine stages of the life cycle in culture and in frog skin, and to assess ultrastructural pathology in the skin of 2 frogs. Methods included light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy with conventional methods as well as high pressure freezing and freeze substitution, and scanning electron microscopy with critical point drying as well as examination of bulk-frozen and freeze-fractured material. Although chytridiomycosis is an emerging disease, B. dendrobatidis has adaptations that suggest it has long been evolved to live within cells in the dynamic tissue of the stratified epidermis. Sporangia developed at a rate that coincided with the maturation of the cell, and fungal discharge tubes usually opened onto the distal surface of epidermal cells of the stratum corneum. A zone of condensed, fibrillar, host cytoplasm surrounded some sporangia. Hyperkeratosis may be due to (1) a hyperplastic response that leads to an increased turnover of epidermal cells, and (2) premature keratinization and death of infected cells.

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