Rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mikiss) possess two genes encoding putative leucine-rich repeat (LRR)-containing proteins similar to human TLR5. Molecular cloning of these two LRR proteins suggested the presence of a TLR5-like membrane form (rtTLR5M) and a soluble form (rtTLR5S). Here we elucidated the primary structures and the unique combinational functions of these fish versions of TLR5. The LRR regions of rtTLR5S and rtTLR5M exhibited 81% homology and relatively high (35.6 and 33.7%) homology to the extracellular domains of human TLR5 (huTLR5). Thus, two distinct genes encode the TLR5 orthologs in fish, one of which has a consensus intracellular domain (TIR). In order to test their functions, we constructed fusion proteins with the LRR region of rtTLR5S (S-chimera) or thai of rtTLR5M and the TIR of huTLR5 (M-chimera). The S- and M-chimeras expressed in HeLa or CHO cells signaled the presence of Vibrio anguillarum flagellin, resulting in NF-κB activation. rtTLR5M was ubiquitously expressed, whereas rtTLR5S was predominantly expressed in the liver. In the hepatoma cell lines of the rainbow trout RTH-149, stimulation of rtTLR5M with V. anguillarum or its flagellin allowed the up-regulation of rtTLR5S. Flagellin-mediated NF-κB activation was more significant in the presence of or simultaneous expression of rtTLR5S. Therefore, a two-step flagellin response occurred for host defense against bacterial infection in fish: (a) flagellin first induced basal activation of NF-κB via membrane TLR5, facilitating the production of soluble TLR5 and minimal acute phase proteins, and (b) the inducible soluble TLR5 amplifies membrane TLR5-mediated cellular responses in a positive feedback fashion.
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