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J Biol Chem. 2003 Aug 29;278(35):32810-7. Epub 2003 Jun 12.

Emergence and disappearance of an immune molecule, an antimicrobial lectin, in basal metazoa. A tachylectin-related protein in the sponge Suberites domuncula.

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Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Abteilung Angewandte Molekularbiologie, Universität Mainz, Duesbergweg 6, D-55099 Mainz, Germany.


Sponges (phylum Porifera) represent the evolutionarily oldest metazoans that comprise already a complex immune system and are related to the crown taxa of the protostomians and the deuterostomians. Here, we demonstrate the existence of a tachylectin-related protein in the demosponge Suberites domuncula, termed Suberites lectin. The MAPK pathway was activated in response to lipopolysaccharide treatment of the three-dimensional cell aggregates, the primmorphs; this process was abolished by the monosaccharide D-GlcNAc. The cDNA encoding the S. domuncula lectin was identified and cloned; it comprises 238 amino acids (26 kDa) in the open reading frame. The deduced protein has one potential transmembrane region, three characteristic Cys residues, and six internal tandem repeats; it shares the highest sequence similarity with lectins from the horseshoe crab Tachypleus trunculus. The steady-state level of expression of the Suberites lectin rises in primmorphs in response to lipopolysaccharide, an effect that was prevented by co-incubation with D-GlcNAc. The natural sponge lectin was purified by affinity chromatography; it has a size of 27 kDa and displays antibacterial activity against the Gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli and the Gram-positive bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. The putative protein, deduced from the cloned gene, is identical/similar to the purified natural protein, as demonstrated by immunological cross-reactivity with specific antibodies. We conclude that the S. domuncula lectin acts as an antibacterial molecule involved in immune defense against bacterial invaders.

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