Project Title: Salivary Gland Transcriptome and Peptidome Analysis in Crocuta crocuta
The African Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) exhibits unique wound-healing capabilities and survives on a diet that contains extreme microbial loads, including otherwise lethal pathogens. Its remarkably low susceptibility to infectious diseases may offer novel mechanistic insight into epithelial cell signaling and present molecular templates for the development of novel biotherapeutics. Our long-term goal for this project is to understand how the antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activities of hyena host defense peptides (HDPs) can be used to develop novel immunotherapeutics and potent, broad-spectrum natural antibiotics with low resistance. We are pursuing our goal by conducting comparative analysis of the salivary gland transcriptome and peptidome in wild versus captive spotted hyenas exposed to different immunomodulators. Our central hypothesis is that the immunological robustness in the spotted hyena is explained by broad-spectrum antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activity of epithelial-derived HDPs. Our fieldwork supports the notion that infectious disease is exceedingly rare in the spotted hyena, and the specialty literature places a strong emphasis on HDPs as key elements of innate immune defense.