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Natural killer lysin (NK-lysin), produced by cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, is a cationic antimicrobial peptide that has a broad antimicrobial spectrum, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Nevertheless, the implication of NK-lysin in the protection against bacterial infection is not aware in common carp. In this study, six different NK-lysin genes (nkl1, nkl2, nkl3, nkl4, nkl5 and nkl6) were identified in the common carp genome. Each of the mature peptides of common carp NK-lysin has six well-conserved cysteine residues, and shares a Saposin B domain, characteristic of saposin-like protein (SALIP) family. The gene nkl1 contains 5 extrons and 4 introns, and nkl2, nkl3, nkl4 or nkl5 contains 4 extrons and 3 introns, however, the nkl6 has 3 extrons and 2 introns. By quantitative real-time PCR, nkl2 transcripts were predominantly expressed in spleen of healthy common carp, while elevated mainly in gill and spleen upon Aeromonas hydrophila infection. The recombinant NK-lysin-2 purified from Pichia pastoris shows antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus (Gram-positive), and Escherichia coli M15, Aeromonas hydrophila, as well as Edwardsiella tarda (Gram-negative), the latter two are important pathogens of aquaculture. Our results indicate that NK-lysin in common carp might play an important role in fish immune response by enhancing antibacterial defense against bacterial pathogens.Six NK-lysin genes (nkl1, nkl2, nkl3, nkl4, nkl5 and nkl6) were identified from common carp.The nkl1 contains five exons and four introns, nkl2–5 contain four exons and three introns respectively, while nkl6 contains three exons and two introns.The nkl2 is predominantly transcripted in spleen in healthy fish, while elevated mainly in gill and spleen upon Aeromonas hydrophila infection.Recombinant NK-lysin-2 purified from Pichia pastoris shows antibacterial activity in vitro.