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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Nov 11;94(23):12337-42.

Mosquito transferrin, an acute-phase protein that is up-regulated upon infection.

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  • 1The Department of Biochemistry and the Center for Insect Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


When treated with heat-killed bacterial cells, mosquito cells in culture respond by up-regulating several proteins. Among these is a 66-kDa protein (p66) that is secreted from cells derived from both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. p66 was degraded by proteolysis and gave a virtually identical pattern of peptide products for each mosquito species. The sequence of one peptide (31 amino acids) was determined and found to have similarity to insect transferrins. By using conserved regions of insect transferrin sequences, degenerate oligonucleotide PCR primers were designed and used to isolate a cDNA clone encoding an A. aegypti transferrin. The encoded protein contained a signal sequence that, when cleaved, would yield a mature protein of 68 kDa. It contained the 31-amino acid peptide, and the 3' end exactly matched a cDNA encoding a polypeptide that is up-regulated when A. aegypti encapsulates filarial worms [Beerntsen, B. T., Severson, D. W. & Christensen, B. M. (1994) Exp. Parasitol. 79, 312-321]. This transferrin, like those of two other insect species, has conserved iron-binding residues in the N-terminal lobe but not in the C-terminal lobe, which also has large deletions in the polypeptide chain, compared with transferrins with functional C-terminal lobes. The hypothesis is developed that this transferrin plays a role similar to vertebrate lactoferrin in sequestering iron from invading organisms and that degradation of the structure of the C-terminal lobe might be a mechanism for evading pathogens that elaborate transferrin receptors to tap sequestered iron.

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