All Publications

  • Molecular physiology of chemical defenses in a poison frog. The Journal of experimental biology Caty, S. N., Alvarez-Buylla, A., Byrd, G. D., Vidoudez, C., Roland, A. B., Tapia, E. E., Budnik, B., Trauger, S. A., Coloma, L. A., O'Connell, L. A. 2019


    Poison frogs sequester small molecule lipophilic alkaloids from their diet of leaf litter arthropods for use as chemical defenses against predation. Although the dietary acquisition of chemical defenses in poison frogs is well-documented, the physiological mechanisms of alkaloid sequestration has not been investigated. Here, we used RNA sequencing and proteomics to determine how alkaloids impact mRNA or protein abundance in the Little Devil Frog (Oophaga sylvatica) and compared wild caught chemically defended frogs to laboratory frogs raised on an alkaloid-free diet. To understand how poison frogs move alkaloids from their diet to their skin granular glands, we focused on measuring gene expression in the intestines, skin, and liver. Across these tissues, we found many differentially expressed transcripts involved in small molecule transport and metabolism, as well as sodium channels and other ion pumps. We then used proteomic approaches to quantify plasma proteins, where we found several protein abundance differences between wild and laboratory frogs, including the amphibian neurotoxin binding protein saxiphilin. Finally, because many blood proteins are synthesized in the liver, we used thermal proteome profiling as an untargeted screen for soluble proteins that bind the alkaloid decahydroquinoline. Using this approach, we identified several candidate proteins that interact with this alkaloid, including saxiphilin. These transcript and protein abundance patterns suggest the presence of alkaloids influences frog physiology and that small molecule transport proteins may be involved in toxin bioaccumulation in dendrobatid poison frogs.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/jeb.204149

    View details for PubMedID 31138640

  • Machine-learned epidemiology: real-time detection of foodborne illness at scale NPJ DIGITAL MEDICINE Sadilek, A., Caty, S., DiPrete, L., Mansour, R., Schenk, T., Bergtholdt, M., Jha, A., Ramaswami, P., Gabrilovich, E. 2018; 1
  • Adapting global health aid in the face of climate change LANCET GLOBAL HEALTH Gupta, V., Mason-Sharma, A., Caty, S. N., Kerry, V. 2017; 5 (2): E133–E134

    View details for PubMedID 28104175

  • Radiation of the polymorphic Little Devil poison frog (Oophaga sylvatica) in Ecuador. Ecology and evolution Roland, A. B., Santos, J. C., Carriker, B. C., Caty, S. N., Tapia, E. E., Coloma, L. A., O'Connell, L. A. 2017; 7 (22): 9750–62


    Some South American poison frogs (Dendrobatidae) are chemically defended and use bright aposematic colors to warn potential predators of their unpalatability. Aposematic signals are often frequency-dependent where individuals deviating from a local model are at a higher risk of predation. However, extreme diversity in the aposematic signal has been documented in poison frogs, especially in Oophaga. Here, we explore the phylogeographic pattern among color-divergent populations of the Little Devil poison frog Oophaga sylvatica by analyzing population structure and genetic differentiation to evaluate which processes could account for color diversity within and among populations. With a combination of PCR amplicons (three mitochondrial and three nuclear markers) and genome-wide markers from a double-digested RAD (ddRAD) approach, we characterized the phylogenetic and genetic structure of 199 individuals from 13 populations (12 monomorphic and 1 polymorphic) across the O. sylvatica distribution. Individuals segregated into two main lineages by their northern or southern latitudinal distribution. A high level of genetic and phenotypic polymorphism within the northern lineage suggests ongoing gene flow. In contrast, low levels of genetic differentiation were detected among the southern lineage populations and support recent range expansions from populations in the northern lineage. We propose that a combination of climatic gradients and structured landscapes might be promoting gene flow and phylogenetic diversification. Alternatively, we cannot rule out that the observed phenotypic and genomic variations are the result of genetic drift on near or neutral alleles in a small number of genes.

    View details for PubMedID 29188006

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5696431

  • Response to Heethoff, Norton, and Raspotnig: Ant and Mite Diversity Drives Toxin Variation in the Little Devil Poison Frog and Erratum JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL ECOLOGY McGugan, J. R., Byrd, G. D., Roland, A. B., Caty, S. N., Kabir, N., Tapia, E. E., Trauger, S. A., Coloma, L. A., O'Connell, L. A. 2016; 42 (8): 845–48


    Our recent publication titled "Ant and Mite Diversity Drives Toxin Variation in the Little Devil Poison Frog" aimed to describe how variation in diet contributes to population differences in toxin profiles of poison frogs. Some poison frogs (Family Dendrobatidae) sequester alkaloid toxins from their arthropod diet, which is composed mainly of ants and mites. Our publication demonstrated that arthropods from the stomach contents of three different frog populations were diverse in both chemistry and species composition. To make progress towards understanding this trophic relationship, our main goal was to identify alkaloids that are found in either ants or mites. With the remaining samples that were not used for chemical analysis, we attempted to identify the arthropods using DNA barcoding of cytochrome oxidase 1 (CO1). The critique of Heethoff, Norton, and Raspotnig refers to the genetic analysis of a small number of mites. Here, we respond to the general argument of the critique as well as other minor issues detailed by Heethoff, Norton, and Raspotnig.

    View details for PubMedID 27672058

  • Ant and Mite Diversity Drives Toxin Variation in the Little Devil Poison Frog JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL ECOLOGY McGugan, J. R., Byrd, G. D., Roland, A. B., Caty, S. N., Kabir, N., Tapia, E. E., Trauger, S. A., Coloma, L. A., O'Connell, L. A. 2016; 42 (6): 537–51


    Poison frogs sequester chemical defenses from arthropod prey, although the details of how arthropod diversity contributes to variation in poison frog toxins remains unclear. We characterized skin alkaloid profiles in the Little Devil poison frog, Oophaga sylvatica (Dendrobatidae), across three populations in northwestern Ecuador. Using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, we identified histrionicotoxins, 3,5- and 5,8-disubstituted indolizidines, decahydroquinolines, and lehmizidines as the primary alkaloid toxins in these O. sylvatica populations. Frog skin alkaloid composition varied along a geographical gradient following population distribution in a principal component analysis. We also characterized diversity in arthropods isolated from frog stomach contents and confirmed that O. sylvatica specialize on ants and mites. To test the hypothesis that poison frog toxin variability reflects species and chemical diversity in arthropod prey, we (1) used sequencing of cytochrome oxidase 1 to identify individual prey specimens, and (2) used liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry to chemically profile consumed ants and mites. We identified 45 ants and 9 mites in frog stomachs, including several undescribed species. We also showed that chemical profiles of consumed ants and mites cluster by frog population, suggesting different frog populations have access to chemically distinct prey. Finally, by comparing chemical profiles of frog skin and isolated prey items, we traced the arthropod source of four poison frog alkaloids, including 3,5- and 5,8-disubstituted indolizidines and a lehmizidine alkaloid. Together, the data show that toxin variability in O. sylvatica reflects chemical diversity in arthropod prey.

    View details for PubMedID 27318689