Functional characterisation of phagocytes in the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas

Invertebrates lack canonical adaptive immunity and mainly rely on innate immune system to fight against pathogens. The phagocytes, which could engulf and kill microbial pathogens, are likely to be of great importance and have to undertake significant roles in invertebrate immune defense. In the present study, flow cytometry combined with histological and lectin staining was employed to characterise functional features of phagocytes in the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. Based on the cell size and cellular contents, haemocytes were categorised into three cell types, i.e., granulocytes, semigranulocytes and agranulocytes. Agranulocytes with smaller cell volume and lower cytoplasmic-to-nuclear ratio did not show phagocytic activity, while semigranulocytes and agranulocytes exhibited larger cell volume, higher cytoplasmic-to-nuclear ratio and phagocytic activity. In addition, granulocytes with higher side scatter (SSC) exhibited higher phagocytic activity than that of semigranulocytes. When β-integrin and lectin-like receptors were blocked by RGD tripeptide and carbohydrates, respectively, the phagocytic activity of both granulocytes and semigranulocytes was significantly inhibited, indicating that β-integrin and certain lectin-like receptors were involved in phagocytosis towards microbes. Moreover, lipopolysaccharide but not peptidylglycan could enhance phagocytic activity of granulocytes and semigranulocytes towards Vibrio splendidus and Staphylococcus aureus. Lectin staining analysis revealed that Lycopersicon esculentum lectin (LEL), binding the epitope polylactosamine, was highly distributed on the extracellular cell surface of phagocytes, and could be utilized as a potential molecular marker to differentiate phagocytes from non-phagocytic haemocytes. The results, collectively, provide knowledge on the functional characters of oyster phagocytes, which would contribute to deep investigation of cell typing and cellular immunity in bivalves.

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