An extracellular serine protease network coordinates key mechanisms of insect defense against microbial infection. Proteolytic activation of prophenoloxidase (PPO) generates phenoloxidase that catalyzes the production of reactive compounds to sequester and kill invading pathogens and parasites. Proteolytic processing of sp?tzle precursor triggers the Toll pathway, which induces the synthesis of antimicrobial peptides and other defense proteins. In insect vectors of human diseases, initiation and regulation of these protease systems may be disrupted by proteins from the intruders. Knowledge of such protein interactions from biochemical model insects such as Manduca sexta will be useful for understanding and manipulating similar systems in arthropod vectors to interfere with disease transmission. We have discovered a branch of the M. sexta protease network that detects Gram-positive bacteria and fungi and mediates PPO activation. In this network, pathogen recognition receptors bind to microbes and initiate protease pathways for PPO and Toll activation. We have identified a new Sushi-domain protease that may participate in a branch of the pathway responsive to Gram-negative bacterial infection. A positive feedback loop in the protease system controls locality and potency of the defense responses. We plan to extend our research on the PPO activation reaction by examining the initiation and regulation of immune protease pathways.
The specific aims of this project are: 1) Characterization of the pathway initiation by Gram-negative bacteria;2) Elucidation of the positive regulatory mechanisms in the protease system;3) Investigation of the structure, function, and activation of M. sexta PPO.
This research will continue to elucidate the function and regulation of a serine protease network during innate immune responses, which produces phenoloxidase and antimicrobial peptides to entrap and kill parasites that cause malaria and filariasis. The acquired knowledge will be useful for disrupting the transmission of human diseases in vector species.
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