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ISME J. 2008 Feb;2(2):145-57. Epub 2007 Dec 13.

Diversity of cutaneous bacteria with antifungal activity isolated from female four-toed salamanders.

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Department of Biology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, USA.


Among the microbiota of amphibian skin are bacteria that produce antifungal compounds. We isolated cutaneous bacteria from the skins of three populations of the nest-attending plethodontid salamander Hemidactylium scutatum and subsequently tested the bacterial isolates against two different fungi (related to Mariannaea elegans and Rhizomucor variabilis) that were obtained from dead salamander eggs. The culturable antifungal bacteria were phylogenetically characterized based on 16S rRNA phylogeny, and belonged to four phyla, comprising 14 bacterial families, 16 genera and 48 species. We found that about half of the antifungal bacterial genera and families were shared with a related salamander species, but there was virtually no overlap at the species level. The proportion of culturable antifungal bacterial taxa shared between two large populations of H. scutatum was the same as the proportion of taxa shared between H. scutatum and Plethodon cinereus, suggesting that populations within a species have unique antifungal bacterial species. Approximately 30% of individuals from both salamander species carried anti-M. elegans cutaneous bacteria and almost 90% of P. cinereus and 100% of H. scutatum salamanders carried anti-R. variabilis cutaneous bacteria. A culture independent method (PCR/DGGE) revealed a shared resident bacterial community of about 25% of the entire resident bacterial community within and among populations of H. scutatum. Thus, the culturable antifungal microbiota was far more variable on salamander skins than was the bacterial microbiota detected by PCR/DGGE. The resident cutaneous antifungal bacteria may play an important role in amphibians' innate defense against pathogens, including the lethal chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

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