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posted on 30.05.2018, 11:12 by Anaïs Portet, Richard Galinier, Silvain Pinaud, Julien Portela, Fanny Nowacki, Benjamin Gourbal, David Duval

Insect thioester-containing protein (iTEP) is the most recently defined group among the thioester-containing protein (TEP) superfamily. TEPs are key components of the immune system, and iTEPs from flies and mosquitoes were shown to be major immune weapons. Initially characterized from insects, TEP genes homologous to iTEP were further described from several other invertebrates including arthropods, cniderians, and mollusks albeit with few functional characterizations. In the freshwater snail Biomphalaria glabrata, a vector of the schistosomiasis disease, the presence of a TEP protein (BgTEP) was previously described in a well-defined immune complex involving snail lectins (fibrinogen-related proteins) and schistosome parasite mucins (SmPoMuc). To investigate the potential role of BgTEP in the immune response of the snail, we first characterized its genomic organization and its predicted protein structure. A phylogenetic analysis clustered BgTEP in a well-conserved subgroup of mollusk TEP. We then investigated the BgTEP expression profile in different snail tissues and followed immune challenges using different kinds of intruders during infection kinetics. Results revealed that BgTEP is particularly expressed in hemocytes, the immune-specialized cells in invertebrates, and is secreted into the hemolymph. Transcriptomic results further evidenced an intruder-dependent differential expression pattern of BgTEP, while interactome experiments showed that BgTEP is capable of binding to the surface of different microbes and parasite either in its full length form or in processed forms. An immunolocalization approach during snail infection by the Schistosoma mansoni parasite revealed that BgTEP is solely expressed by a subtype of hemocytes, the blast-like cells. This hemocyte subtype is present in the hemocytic capsule surrounding the parasite, suggesting a potential role in the parasite clearance by encapsulation. Through this work, we report the first characterization of a snail TEP. Our study also reveals that BgTEP may display an unexpected functional dual role. In addition to its previously characterized anti-protease activity, we demonstrate that BgTEP can bind to the intruder surface membrane, which supports a likely opsonin role.