Interferons (IFNs) play a key role in the innate immunity of vertebrates against viral infections by inducing hundreds of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs), such as isg15. Isg15 is an ubiquitin-like protein, which can conjugate cellular and viral proteins in a process called ISGylation, although it can also act as a cytokine-like protein. Gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata L.) is an important asymptomatic carrier of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus (VHSV) and nodavirus, representing a threat to other co-cultivated susceptible species. In order to better understand virus-host interactions in this fish species, this study addresses the identification and molecular characterization of seabream isg15 (sb-isg15). In addition, the modulation of transcript levels of sb-isg15 was analysed in SAF-1cells and seabream acidophilic granulocytes (AGs) stimulated in vitro with different pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) or inoculated with VHSV and striped jack nervous necrosis virus (SJNNV).
The full-length cDNA of sb-isg15 gene, encoding a predicted protein of 155 amino acids, was identified and seen to share the same characteristics as other fish and mammalian isg15 genes. Here we report the clear induction of sb-isg15 transcript levels in SAF-1cells and AGs stimulated with toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands, such as polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly I:C) or genomic DNA from Vibrio anguillarum (VaDNA), respectively. Furthermore, VHSV and SJNNV inoculation induced a significant degree of sb-isg15 transcription in SAF-1cells and AGs. However, the relative levels of viral RNA transcription showed that SJNNV replication seems to be more efficient than VHSV in both in vitro systems. Interestingly, sb-isg15 transcript induction elicited by VaDNA was reduced in VHSV- and SJNNV-inoculated AGs, suggesting an interference prompted by the viruses against the type I IFN system. Taken together, these findings support the use of seabream AGs as a valuable experimental system to study virus-host interactions, in which sb-isg15 seems to play an important role.