Ferritins are ubiquitous proteins with a pivotal role in iron storage and homeostasis, and in host defense responses during infection by pathogens in several organisms, including mollusks. In this study, we characterized two ferritin homologues in the red abalone Haliotis rufescens, a species of economic importance for Chile, USA and Mexico. Two ferritin subunits (Hrfer1 and Hrfer2) were cloned. Hrfer1 cDNA is an 807 bp clone containing a 516 bp open reading frame (ORF) that corresponds to a novel ferritin subunit in H. rufescens. Hrfer2 cDNA is an 868 bp clone containing a 516 bp ORF that corresponds to a previously reported ferritin subunit, but in this study 5′- and 3′-UTR sequences were additionally found. We detected a putative Iron Responsive Element (IRE) in the 5′-UTR sequence, suggesting a posttranscriptional regulation of Hrfer2 translation by iron. The deduced protein sequences of both cDNAs possessed the motifs and domains required in functional ferritin subunits. Expression patterns of both ferritins in different tissues, during different developmental stages, and in response to bacterial (Vibrio splendidus) exposure were examined. Both Hrfer1 and Hrfer2 are most expressed in digestive gland and gonad. Hrfer1 mRNA levels increased about 34-fold along with larval developmental process, attaining the highest level in the creeping post-larvae. Exogenous feeding is initiated at the creeping larva stage; thus, the increase of Hrfer1 may suggest and immunity-related role upon exposure to bacteria. Highest Hrfer2 expression levels were detected at trochophore stage; which may be related with early shell formation. Upon challenge with, the bacteria an early mild induction of Hrfer2 (2 h post-challenge), followed by a stronger induction of Hrfer1 at 15 h post-challenge, was observed in haemocytes from adult abalones. While maximal upregulation of both genes in the whole individual occurred at 24 h post-challenge, in juveniles. A significant increase in ferritin protein levels from 6 h to 24 h post-challenge was also detected. Our results suggest an involvement of Hrfer1 and Hrfer2, and of ferritin proteins in the immune response of H. rufescens to bacterial infection.
- Abalone immunity
- Haliotis rufescens