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PeerJ. 2016 Nov 15;4:e2692. eCollection 2016.

The scavenger receptor repertoire in six cnidarian species and its putative role in cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis.

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School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington , Wellington , New Zealand.
Department of Biology, Western Oregon University , Monmouth , OR , United States.
Department of Integrative Biology, Oregon State University , Corvallis , OR , United States.


Many cnidarians engage in a mutualism with endosymbiotic photosynthetic dinoflagellates that forms the basis of the coral reef ecosystem. Interpartner interaction and regulation includes involvement of the host innate immune system. Basal metazoans, including cnidarians have diverse and complex innate immune repertoires that are just beginning to be described. Scavenger receptors (SR) are a diverse superfamily of innate immunity genes that recognize a broad array of microbial ligands and participate in phagocytosis of invading microbes. The superfamily includes subclades named SR-A through SR-I that are categorized based on the arrangement of sequence domains including the scavenger receptor cysteine rich (SRCR), the C-type lectin (CTLD) and the CD36 domains. Previous functional and gene expression studies on cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis have implicated SR-like proteins in interpartner communication and regulation. In this study, we characterized the SR repertoire from a combination of genomic and transcriptomic resources from six cnidarian species in the Class Anthozoa. We combined these bioinformatic analyses with functional experiments using the SR inhibitor fucoidan to explore a role for SRs in cnidarian symbiosis and immunity. Bioinformatic searches revealed a large diversity of SR-like genes that resembled SR-As, SR-Bs, SR-Es and SR-Is. SRCRs, CTLDs and CD36 domains were identified in multiple sequences in combinations that were highly homologous to vertebrate SRs as well as in proteins with novel domain combinations. Phylogenetic analyses of CD36 domains of the SR-B-like sequences from a diversity of metazoans grouped cnidarian with bilaterian sequences separate from other basal metazoans. All cnidarian sequences grouped together with moderate support in a subclade separately from bilaterian sequences. Functional experiments were carried out on the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida that engages in a symbiosis with Symbiodinium minutum (clade B1). Experimental blocking of the SR ligand binding site with the inhibitor fucoidan reduced the ability of S. minutum to colonize A. pallida suggesting that host SRs play a role in host-symbiont recognition. In addition, incubation of symbiotic anemones with fucoidan elicited an immune response, indicating that host SRs function in immune modulation that results in host tolerance of the symbionts.


Aiptasia; CD36; CTLD; Coral; Coral symbiosis; Innate immunity; SRCR; Scavenger receptor; Sea anemone; Symbiodinium

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