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Host defense peptides (HDP) are among the most ancient immune molecules in animals and clearly reflect an ancestral evolutionary history involving pathogen-host interactions. Hepcidins are a very widespread family of HDPs among vertebrates and are especially diverse in teleosts. We have investigated the identification of new hepcidins in gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata), a fish farmed in the Mediterranean. Targeted gene predictions supported with expressed sequence tags (ESTs) derived from Hidden Markov Models were used to find the hamp genes in the seabream genome. The results revealed a massively clustered hamp duplication on chromosome 17. In fact, the seabream genome contains the largest number of hepcidin copies described in any vertebrate. The evolutionary history of hepcidins in seabream, and vertebrates generally, clearly indicates high adaptation in teleosts and novel subgroups within hepcidin type II. Furthermore, basal hepcidin gene expression analysis indicates specific-tissue expression profiles, while the presence and distribution of transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) in hamp promoters as well as their transcription profile upon bacterial challenge indicates different immune roles depending on the type of hepcidin and tissue. This massive duplication of HDP genes in a bony fish could point to a far more specific and adaptive innate immune system than assumed in the classic concept of immunity in mammals. Hence, a new world of knowledge regarding hepcidins in fish and vertebrates is being initiated. Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.


Jhon A Serna-Duque, Alberto Cuesta, M Ángeles Esteban. Massive gene expansion of hepcidin, a host defense peptide, in gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata). Fish & shellfish immunology. 2022 May;124:563-571

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PMID: 35489593

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