Dirofilaria immitis: proteases produced by third- and fourth-stage larvae

Exp Parasitol. 1992 Sep;75(2):213-22. doi: 10.1016/0014-4894(92)90181-9.


A model of cutaneous extracellular matrix was used to determine if live Dirofilaria immitis larvae secrete proteases which are active at physiological pH and capable of degrading macromolecules found in cutaneous tissue. After 72 hr, 100 third-stage larvae (L3) degraded 24% of the total matrix, while fourth-stage larvae (L4) degraded 10%. A sharp increase in the amount of matrix degraded by L3 corresponded with the onset of the molting process. L3 and L4 degraded comparable amounts of the glycoprotein and elastin components of the matrix, but molting L3 degraded nearly twice the amount of the collagen component (62% vs 35%). Characterization of proteases present in larval-soluble extracts and excretory-secretory products using synthetic substrates and protease inhibitors demonstrated cysteine-protease and metalloprotease activity. Cysteine protease activity was found in whole worm extracts of both L3 and L4. Metalloprotease was secreted at higher levels by molting L3, but was also secreted by L4. Partial separation of the metalloprotease by size-exclusion chromatography indicated that the molecular weight of the native enzyme was in the 49-54 kDa range. The cysteine protease activity was demonstrated in fractions corresponding to 34-39 kDa. The biological function of the D. immitis larval proteases remains to be conclusively determined; however, these data suggest that they are involved in degradation of components of cutaneous tissue and in the molting process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Chromatography
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / chemistry
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / isolation & purification
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Dirofilaria immitis / enzymology*
  • Dirofilaria immitis / growth & development
  • Elastin / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Hydrolysis
  • Larva / enzymology
  • Metalloendopeptidases / chemistry
  • Metalloendopeptidases / isolation & purification
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology


  • Glycoproteins
  • Oligopeptides
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Collagen
  • Elastin
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Metalloendopeptidases