Limulin, a sialic-acid-binding and phosphorylethanolamine-binding hemagglutinin in the hemolymph plasma of the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus), is a hemolytic C-reactive protein [Armstrong, P.B., Swarnakar, S., Srimal, S., Misquith, S., Hahn, E.A., Aimes, R.T. and Quigley, J.P. (1996) J. Biol. Chem. 271, 14717-14721]. We have now identified three types of C-reactive protein in the plasma of the Japanese horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus), based on different affinities against fetuin- agarose and phosphorylethanolamine-agarose determined by quantitative precipitin assays using fetuin and an artificial phosphorylethanolamine- protein conjugate. Partial amino acid sequences of the isolated C-reactive proteins identified homologous proteins which were named Tachypleus tridentatus CRP-1 (tCRP-1), tCRP-2 and tCRP-3, each of which possibly constitute isoprotein mixtures. tCRP-2 and tCRP-3, but not tCRP-1, agglutinated mammalian erythrocytes tCRP-1, the most abundant C-reactive protein in the plasma, exhibited the highest affinity to the phosphorylethanolamine-protein conjugate but lacked both sialic-acid-binding and hemolytic activities, tCRP-2 bound to both fetuin-agarose and phosphorylethanolamine-agarose, and exhibited Ca2+-dependent hemolytic and sialic-acid-binding activities, suggestive of limulin-like properties. Furthermore, tCRP-2 exhibited a higher affinity to colominic acid, a bacterial polysialic acid. By contrast, tCRP-3 shows stronger hemolytic, sialic-acid-binding and hemagglutinating activities than tCRP-2. tCRP-3 has no affinity to phosphorylethanolamine-agarose, phosphorylethanolamine-protein conjugate and colominic acid. This suggests tCRP-3 is a novel hemolytic C- reactive protein lacking a common characteristic of phosphorylethanolamine- agarose binding affinity. Twenty-two clones of tCRPs with different deduced amino acid sequences were obtained by PCR using oligonucleotide primers based on the N-terminal and C-terminal sequences of tCRPs and with templates including genomic DNA and cDNA of hemocytes or hepatopancreas derived from one individual. The translation products of the tCRP clones possess high molecular diversity which falls into three related groups, consistent with classification based on their biological activities. Only tCRP-3 contained a unique hydrophobic nonapeptide sequence that appears in the transmembrane domain of a major histocompatibility complex class I heavy chain of rainbow trout, suggesting the importance of the hydrophobic patch to the hemolytic activity of tCRP-3. The structural and functional diversities of tCRPs provide a good model for studying the properties of innate immunity in invertebrates, which survive without the benefit of acquired immunity.
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