Urochordate Histoincompatible Interactions Activate Vertebrate-Like Coagulation System Components

The colonial ascidian Botryllus schlosseri expresses a unique allorecognition system. When two histoincompatible Botryllus colonies come into direct contact, they develop an inflammatory-like rejection response. A surprising high number of vertebrates' coagulation genes and coagulation-related domains were disclosed in a cDNA library of differentially expressed sequence tags (ESTs), prepared for this allorejection process. Serine proteases, especially from the trypsin family, were highly represented among Botryllus library ortholgues and its “molecular function” gene ontology analysis. These, together with the built-up clot-like lesions in the interaction area, led us to further test whether a vertebrate-like clotting system participates in Botryllus innate immunity. Three morphologically distinct clot types (points of rejection; POR) were followed. We demonstrated the specific expression of nine coagulation orthologue transcripts in Botryllus rejection processes and effects of the anti-coagulant heparin on POR formation and heartbeats. In situ hybridization of fibrinogen and von Willebrand factor orthologues elucidated enhanced expression patterns specific to histoincompatible reactions as well as common expressions not augmented by innate immunity. Immunohistochemistry for fibrinogen revealed, in naïve and immune challenged colonies alike, specific antibody binding to a small population of Botryllus compartment cells. Altogether, molecular, physiological and morphological outcomes suggest the involvement of vertebrates-like coagulation elements in urochordate immunity, not assigned with vasculature injury.