PcToll2 positively regulates the expression of antimicrobial peptides by promotingPcATF4 translocation into the nucleus

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Drosophila Toll and mammalian Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a family of evolutionarily conserved immune receptors that play a crucial role in the first-line defense against intruded pathogens. Activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4), a member of the ATF/CREB transcription factor family, is an important factor that participates in TLR signaling and other physiological processes. However, in crustaceans, whether ATF4 homologs were involved in TLR signaling remains unclear. In the current study, we identified a Toll homolog PcToll2 and a novel ATF4 homolog PcATF4 from Procambarus clarkii, and analyzed the likely regulatory activity of PcATF4 in PcToll2 signaling. The complete cDNA sequence of PcToll2 was 4175 bp long containing an open reading frame of 2820 bp encoding a 939-amino acid protein, and the cDNA sequence of PcATF4 was 2027 bp long with an open reading frame of 1296 bp encoding a 431-amino acid protein. PcToll2 and human TLR4 shared the high identity and they were grouped into a cluster. Furthermore, PcToll2 had a close relationship with other shrimp TLRs that possessed potential antibacterial activity. PcToll2 was highly expressed in the hemocytes, heart and gills, while PcATF4 mainly distributed in gills. Upon challenge with Vibrio parahemolyticus, PcToll2 and PcATF4 together with the antimicrobial peptides of ALF1 and ALF2 were significantly up-regulated in the hemocytes, and the PcATF4 was translocated into the nucleus. After PcToll2 silencing and challenge with Vibrio, the translocation of PcATF4 into the nucleus was inhibited and the expression of ALF1 and ALF2 was reduced, but the expression of PcDorsal and PcSTAT was not affected. Furthermore, after PcATF4 knockdown and challenge with or without Vibrio, the expression of ALF1 and ALF2 was also decreased while the expression of PcToll2 was upregulated. These results suggested that PcToll2 might regulate the expression of ALF1 and ALF2 by promoting the import of PcATF4, instead of the routine transcription factor PcDorsal, into the nucleus participating in the immune defense against Gram-negative bacteria.

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