Sea urchins are long-living marine invertebrates with a complex innate immune system, which includes expanded families of immune receptors. A central immune gene family in sea urchins encodes the Transformer (Trf) proteins. The Trf family has been studied mainly in the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Here, we explore this protein family in the Mediterranean Sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. The PlTrf genes and predicted proteins are highly diverse and show a typical Trf size range and structure. Coelomocytes and cell-free coelomic fluid from P. lividus contain different PlTrf protein repertoires with a shared subset, that bind specifically to E. coli. Using FACS, we identified five different P. lividus coelomocyte sub-populations with cell surface PlTrf protein expression. The relative abundance of the PlTrf-positive cells increases sharply following immune challenge with E. coli, but not following challenge with LPS or the sea urchin pathogen, Vibrio penaeicida. Phagocytosis of E. coli by P. lividus phagocytes is mediated through the cell-free coelomic fluid and is inhibited by blocking PlTrf activity with anti-SpTrf antibodies. Together, our results suggest a collaboration between cellular and humoral PlTrf-mediated effector arms in the P. lividus specific immune response to pathogens.
Keywords: 185/333; Paracentrotus lividus; Transformer; Trf; invertebrate immunity; model organism; phagocytosis.