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- TITLE: May Salivary Gland Secretory Proteins from Hematophagous Leeches (Hirudo verbana) Reach Pharmacologically Relevant Concentrations in the Vertebrate Host?
- AUTHORS: Sarah Lemke, Christian Müller, Elisabeth Lipke, Gabriele Uhl, Jan-Peter Hildebrandt
JOURNAL NAME: PLOS ONE
Sep 09, 2014
- ABSTRACT: Saliva of hematophagous leeches (Hirudo sp.) contains bioactive proteins which allow the leech proper feeding and storage of ingested blood, but may also exert effects in the host. Leech therapy is used to treat many different ailments in humans, although only a small fraction of salivary proteins are characterized yet. Moreover, we do not know whether complete transfer of salivary proteins stored in the unicellular salivary glands in a leech to the host during feeding may generate concentrations that are sufficiently high to affect physiological processes in the host. Our 3D reconstruction of a portion of internal leech tissue from histological sections revealed that one leech contains approx. 37,000 salivary gland cells. Using tissue slices from pig liver and mouse skeletal muscle for reference, we obtained data for protein densities in leech salivary gland cells. As individual salivary cells are voluminous (67,000 μm3) and the stored proteins are densely packed (approx. 500 μg/mm3), we extrapolated that a single leech may contain up to 1.2 mg of salivary proteins. Analyzing protein extracts of unfed or fed leeches by 2D electrophoresis, we calculated the relative molar amounts of individual salivary proteins in the mass range of 17–60 kDa which may be released from a single leech during feeding. Distribution of these salivary proteins in the host (assumed plasma volume of 5 l) may result in concentrations of individual compounds between 3 and 236 pmol/l. Such concentrations seem sufficiently high to exert biochemical interactions with target molecules in the host.