Research Alert


White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent wildlife fungal disease of cave-dwelling, hibernating bats that has led to unprecedented mortalities throughout North America. A primary factor in WNS-associated bat mortality includes increased arousals from torpor and premature fat depletion during winter months. Details of species and sex-specific changes in lipid metabolism during WNS are poorly understood and may play an important role in the pathophysiology of the disease. Given the likely role of fat metabolism in WNS and the fact that the liver plays a crucial role in fatty acid distribution and lipid storage, we assessed hepatic lipid signatures of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) at an early stage of infection with the etiological agent, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). Differences in lipid profiles were detected at the species and sex level in the sham-inoculated treatment, most strikingly in higher hepatic triacylglyceride (TG) levels in E. fuscus females compared to males. Interestingly, several dominant TGs (storage lipids) decreased dramatically after Pd infection in both female M. lucifugus and E. fuscus. Increases in hepatic glycerophospholipid (structural lipid) levels were only observed in M. lucifugus, including two phosphatidylcholines (PC [32:1], PC [42:6]) and one phosphatidylglycerol (PG [34:1]). These results suggest that even at early stages of WNS, changes in hepatic lipid mobilization may occur and be species and sex specific. As pre-hibernation lipid reserves may aid in bat persistence and survival during WNS, these early perturbations to lipid metabolism could have important implications for management responses that aid in pre-hibernation fat storage.