Little is known about glandular proteins secreted from the skin- and blood-feeding ectoparasite salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis). The labial gland has ducts extending into the oral cavity of the lice, and the present study aimed to identify novel genes expressed by this gland type and to investigate their role in modulation of host parameters at the lice feeding site. Five genes associated with labial gland function were identified and named Lepeophteirus salmonis labial gland protein (LsLGP) 1-4 and 1 like (LsLGP1L). All LsLGPs were predicted to be small charged secreted proteins not encoding any known protein domains. Functional studies revealed that LsLGP1 and/or LsLGP1L regulated the expression of other labial gland genes. Immune dampening functions were indicated for LsLGP2 and 3. Whereas LsLGP2 was expressed throughout the parasitic life cycle and found to dampen inflammatory cytokines, LsLGP3 displayed an increased expression in mobile stages and appeared to dampen adaptive immune responses. Expression of LsLGP4 coincided with moulting to the mobile pre-adult I stage where hematophagous feeding is initiated, and synthetic LsLGP4 decreased the clotting time of Atlantic salmon plasma. Results from the present study confirm that the salmon louse secretes immune modulating and anti-coagulative proteins with a potential application in new immune based anti-salmon louse treatments.
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