Serpins in arthropod biology

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2017 Feb;62:105-119. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2016.09.001. Epub 2016 Sep 4.


Serpins are the largest known family of serine proteinase inhibitors and perform a variety of physiological functions in arthropods. Herein, we review the field of serpins in arthropod biology, providing an overview of current knowledge and topics of interest. Serpins regulate insect innate immunity via inhibition of serine proteinase cascades that initiate immune responses such as melanization and antimicrobial peptide production. In addition, several serpins with anti-pathogen activity are expressed as acute-phase serpins in insects upon infection. Parasitoid wasps can downregulate host serpin expression to modulate the host immune system. In addition, examples of serpin activity in development and reproduction in Drosophila have also been discovered. Serpins also function in host-pathogen interactions beyond immunity as constituents of venom in parasitoid wasps and saliva of blood-feeding ticks and mosquitoes. These serpins have distinct effects on immunosuppression and anticoagulation and are of interest for vaccine development. Lastly, the known structures of arthropod serpins are discussed, which represent the serpin inhibitory mechanism and provide a detailed overview of the process.

Keywords: Development; Host-pathogen interactions; Innate immunity; Insect; Tick.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing / genetics
  • Animals
  • Arthropods / immunology
  • Arthropods / metabolism*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Immunity
  • Reproduction
  • Serpins / chemistry
  • Serpins / genetics
  • Serpins / metabolism*


  • Serpins