Dual roles of cystatin A in the immune defense of the pacific oyster,Crassostrea gigas

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Cystatins are a large family of the proteins that function as reversible and tight-binding inhibitors of cysteine proteases, which consequently regulate multiple physiological activities including apoptosis and innate immunity. In the present study, we cloned a gene from Crassostrea gigas encoding cystatin, which is related to cystatin A superfamily. CgCytA was comprised of a cystatin-like domain with two conserved glycine residues (GG) near the N-terminal and a highly conserved glutamine-valine-glycine (Q-X-V-X-G) motif in the form of QVVAG loop. Transcription analysis of CgCytA indicated its constitutive expression in all tissues including mantle, gill, digestive tract, hemocytes, heart, adductor muscle, and gonads. Immune challenge with Vibrio alginolyticus, resulted in significant down-regulation of CgCytA expression at the initial stages of infection (till 12 h post infection) and the expression of cystatin increased 48 h post infection. Protease assay demonstrated the concentration of cystatin needed to inhibit half of the maximum biological response of cysteine protease is 14.4 μg/L (IC50). Furthermore, RNAi of CgCytA resulted in increase of apoptotic cell population in hemocytes of C. gigas, suggesting protection role of CgCytA from hemocytes apoptosis. Unexpectedly, knockdown of CgCytA leaded to enhancement of bacterial clearance in vivo, implying that CgCytA may negatively regulate immune defense by suppressing endogenous cysteine protease. Therefore, CgCytA plays dual roles in protection of host hemocytes from apoptosis and control of bacterial clearance, which may server as one of key endogenous balancer between apoptosis and innate immunity in oyster.

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