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The fibrinogen-related protein family (FREP, also known as FBN) is an evolutionarily conserved immune gene family found in mammals and invertebrates. It is the largest pattern recognition receptor gene family in Anopheles gambiae, with as many as 59 putative members, while the Drosophila melanogaster genome has only 14 known FREP members. Our sequence and phylogenetic analysis suggest that this remarkable gene expansion in the mosquito is the result of tandem duplication of the fibrinogen domain. We found that the majority of the FREP genes displayed immune-responsive transcription after challenge with bacteria, fungi, or Plasmodium, and these expression patterns correlated strongly with gene phylogeny and chromosomal location. Using RNAi-mediated gene-silencing assays, we further demonstrated that some FREP members are essential factors of the mosquito innate immune system that are required for maintaining immune homeostasis, and members of this family have complementary and synergistic functions. One of the most potent anti-Plasmodium FREP proteins, FBN9, was found to interact with both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria and strongly co-localized with both rodent and human malaria parasites in the mosquito midgut epithelium, suggesting that its defensive activity involves direct interaction with the pathogen. Interestingly, FBN9 formed dimers that bound to the bacterial surfaces with different affinities. Our findings indicate that the A. gambiae FREP gene family plays a central role in the mosquito innate immune system and provides an expanded pattern recognition and anti-microbial defense repertoire.


Yuemei Dong, George Dimopoulos. Anopheles fibrinogen-related proteins provide expanded pattern recognition capacity against bacteria and malaria parasites. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2009 Apr 10;284(15):9835-44

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PMID: 19193639

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