Morphological and functional characterization of the hemocytes from the pearl oysterPteria hirundoand their immune responses againstVibrioinfections

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Abstract

Hemocyte populations of the pearl oyster Pteria hirundo were characterized at morphological, ultrastructural and functional levels. Three main hemocyte populations were identified: hyalinocytes, granulocytes and blast-like cells. Hyalinocytes were the most abundant population (88.2%) characterized by the presence of few or no granules in the cytoplasm and composed by two subpopulations, large and small hyalinocytes. Comparatively, granulocytes represented 2.2% of the hemocyte population and were characterized by the presence of numerous large electron-lucid granules in the cytoplasm. Finally, the blast-like cells (9.5%) were the smallest hemocytes, showing spherical shape and a high nucleus/cytoplasm ratio. Hemocytes exhibited a significant phagocytic capacity for inert particles (38.5%) and showed to be able to produce microbicidal molecules, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) (ex vivo assays). The immune role of hemocytes was further investigated in the P. hirundo defense against the Gram-negative Vibrio alginolyticus. A significant decrease in the total number of hemocytes was observed at 24 h following injection of V. alginolyticus or sterile seawater (injury control) when compared to naïve (unchallenged) animals, indicating the migration of circulating hemocytes to the sites of infection and tissue damage. Bacterial agglutination was only observed against Gram-negative bacteria (Vibrio) but not against to marine Gram-positive-bacteria. Besides, an increase in the agglutination titer was observed against V. alginolyticus only in animals previously infected with this same bacterial strain. These results suggest that agglutinins or lectin-like molecules may have been produced in response to this particular microorganism promoting a specific recognition. The ultrastructural and functional characterization of P. hirundo hemocytes constitutes a new important piece of the molluscan immunity puzzle that can also contribute for the improvement of bivalve production sustainability.

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