As part of an investigation of the biochemical interactions between the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, we characterized protease activity in the skin mucus of noninfected Atlantic salmon and Atlantic salmon infected with L. salmonis and in an L. salmonis whole-body homogenate. Zymography revealed that mucus from infected salmon contained a series of low-molecular-mass (17-22 kDa) serine proteases that were not present in the mucus of noninfected salmon. Based on molecular mass, inhibition studies, and affinity chromatography, the series of proteases was identified as being trypsin-like. Similar proteases were observed in the L. salmonis homogenate and in mucus from noninfected Atlantic salmon following a 1-hr incubation with live L. salmonis. An antibody raised against Atlantic salmon trypsin failed to recognize any proteases in the mucus of noninfected salmon or infected salmon or in the L. salmonis homogenate. Collectively, these findings suggest that the trypsin-like proteases present in the mucus of infected Atlantic salmon were produced by L. salmonis, possibly to aid in feeding and evasion of host immune responses.
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