Two proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) paralogs from the tropical sea cucumber (Stichopus monotuberculatus): Molecular characterization and inducible expression with immune challenge

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Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) is a multifunctional protein that widely exists in eukaryotic species. In this study, two PCSK9 paralogs, named StmPCSK9–1 and StmPCSK9–2, were identified from the tropical sea cucumber (Stichopus monotuberculatus). The cDNAs of StmPCSK9–1 and StmPCSK9–2 are 1330 kb and 1508 kb in size, respectively. The open reading frames (ORF) for StmPCSK9–1 and StmPCSK9–2 cDNAs are 1128 and 1167 bp in length, encoding the proteins of 375 and 388 amino acids with the deduced molecular weights of 38.76 and 41.07 kDa, respectively. In accord with other members in PCSK9 family, the two StmPCSK9 paralogs possessed the inhibitor_I9 and peptidase_S8 functional domains, seven active sites, a catalytic triad and two calcium binding sites. For the gene structure, the splicing of the two StmPCSK9 paralogs was relatively conserved. In addition, the mRNA expression of StmPCSK9–1 and StmPCSK9–2 was only detected in the sea cucumber intestine and coelomocytes, and the expression levels of both the two StmPCSK9 paralogs were higher in intestine. Moreover, StmPCSK9–2 was found to be a cytoplasm protein without signal peptide, and show no response to the immune challenge. On the contrary, StmPCSK9–1 was a secreted protein and the transcriptional expression of StmPCSK9–1 was significantly up-regulated by lipopolysaccharides (LPS) treatment and slightly down-regulated by polyriboinosinic polyribocytidylic acid [Poly (I:C)] challenge in in vitro experiments performed in the cultural primary coelomocytes, suggesting that the StmPCSK9–1 may play critical roles in the innate immune defense of sea cucumber, S. monotuberculatus, against bacterial and/or viral infections.

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