Molecular characterization and functional analysis of two distinct liver-expressed antimicrobial peptide 2 (LEAP-2) genes in large yellow croaker (Larimichthys crocea)

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Liver-expressed antimicrobial peptide 2 (LEAP-2) plays a vital role in the host innate immune system. In the present study, two LEAP-2 genes (LcLEAP-2A and LcLEAP-2C) from large yellow croaker (Larimichthys crocea) were cloned, both of which consist of 3 exons and 2 introns. The LcLEAP-2A transcripts were expressed in a wide range of tissues, with the highest mRNA levels found in the liver and intestine, while LcLEAP-2C transcripts showed obvious lower mRNA levels in all tested tissues compared to LcLEAP-2A. Upon infection by Vibrio alginolyticus, LcLEAP-2A transcripts were significantly up-regulated in liver, trunk kidney, spleen, head kidney, and gill, but down-regulated in intestine. In addition, significant up-regulation of LcLEAP-2C transcripts were also detected in all tissues tested, including intestine. The LcLEAP-2A and LcLEAP-2C mature peptides were chemically synthesized and found to exhibit selective antimicrobial activity in vitro against various species of bacteria. LcLEAP-2C, but not LcLEAP-2A, had antimicrobial activity against V. alginolyticus. Moreover, LcLEAP-2C treatment at low concentrations was evaluated and found to improve survival rate in V. alginolyticus-infected large yellow croaker, resulting in a decrease in bacterial load and expression of inflammatory cytokines. These results suggest that LcLEAP-2 isoforms play an important role in innate immunity by killing bacteria and inhibiting early inflammatory response in large yellow croaker.

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