Hemocytin facilitates host immune responses against Nosema bombycis

Dev Comp Immunol. 2020 Feb;103:103495. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2019.103495. Epub 2019 Oct 13.


Invertebrates lack an adaptive immune response and thus are reliant on their innate immune response for eliminating invading pathogens. The innate immune responses of silkworms against the pathogen Nosema bombycis include: hemocyte aggregation, melanization, antimicrobial peptides, etc. In our current study, we discovered that a silkworm hemostasis-related protein, hemocytin, is up-regulated after Nosema bombycis infection. This novel finding lead to our hypothesis that hemocytin participates in immune responses against N. bombycis. We investigated this hypothesis by analyzing the adhesive effects of hemocytin to invading N. bombycis, and the hemocytin-mediated hemocyte aggregation and hemolymph melanization. We showed that hemocytin can adhere to the surface of N. bombycis, which facilitates the agglutination of N. bombycis and hemocytes as well as the subsequent melanization. Moreover, when we utilize RNAi technology to decrease in vivo hemocytin expression, we found that the proliferation of N. bombycis within the host significantly increased. These results support our hypothesis that hemocytin exerts pro-inflammatory effects by facilitating pathogen agglutination, along with hemocyte aggregation and melanization, to combat N. bombycis. Our study is the first to determine a function of hemocytin in innate immunity against N. bombycis. Moreover, our findings are of great importance to provide potential targets for developing novel strategy against microsporidia infection.

Keywords: Aggregation; Hemocytin; Innate immunity; Melanization; Nosema bombycis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bombyx / immunology*
  • Bombyx / parasitology*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Insect Proteins / immunology*
  • Lectins / immunology*
  • Microsporidiosis / immunology*
  • Nosema / immunology*


  • Insect Proteins
  • Lectins
  • hemocytin protein, Bombyx mori