The enigma of the haemogram “left-shift” in periwinkles infected with trematodes

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To make further progress in the understanding of digenean immune evasive tactics in their snail host, we compared the haemopoietic parameters and haemocyte functional potencies in the prosobranch Littorina littorea, which were either healthy or infected with echinostome trematode Himasthla elongata. The haemocyte concentration in the circulation of infected individuals was significantly higher than in uninfected ones, 3300 μl−1 and 1882 μl−1, respectively. Intense haemopoiesis in haemolymph of infected snails was evidenced by 4-fold higher BrdU incorporation into nuclei of haemocytes as well as elevated level of cyclin D expression in these cells. Evident skewing of the haemocyte population toward a higher frequency of immature, undifferentiated haemocytes in infected L. littorea was found. Haemocytes in infected snails had a much lower functional potency in production of reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) and cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Correlation analysis shows that both cytotoxic and ROI generation values were significantly and negatively correlated with proportion of juvenile cells in circulation. Experimental injection of H. elongata excretory/secretory products modulated haemopoiesis toward increasing a juvenile cells proportion by 7th day post-injection. This can be considered a haemogram “left-shift” by analogy to that seen in the human neutrophil compartment, when more immature bandforms are found in blood during acute inflammation or bone marrow disorders. We hypothesize that echinostomatide trematodes may interfere in the normal neuroendocrine management of haemopoiesis in the host and cause a haemopoietic signal to initiate multiplication to near neoplastic levels.

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