Immune cell recruitment is critical step in the inflammatory response and associated diseases. However, the underlying regulatory mechanisms are poorly understood in invertebrates. Mesenchyme cells of the starfish larvae, which allowed Metchnikoff to complete his landmark experiments, are important model for analysis of immune cell migration. The present study investigated the role of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) - an evolutionarily conserved cytokine that is functionally similar to chemokines - in the larvae of the starfish Patiria (Asterina) pectinifera, which were found to possess two orthologs, ApMIF1 and ApMIF2. ApMIF1 and ApMIF2 clustered with mammalian MIF and its homolog D-dopachrome tautomerase (DDT), respectively, in the phylogenetic analysis. In contrast to the functional similarity between mammalian MIF and DDT, ApMIF1 knockdown resulted in the excessive recruitment of mesenchyme cells in vivo, whereas ApMIF2 deficiency inhibited the recruitment of these cells to foreign bodies. Mesenchyme cells migrated along a gradient of recombinant ApMIF2 in vitro, whereas recombinant ApMIF1 completely blocked ApMIF2-induced directed migration. Moreover, the expression patterns of ApMIF1 and ApMIF2 messenger RNA in bacteria-challenged mesenchyme cells were consistent with in vivo observations of cell behaviors. These results indicate that ApMIF1 and ApMIF2 act as chemotactic inhibitory and stimulatory factors, respectively, and coordinately regulate mesenchyme cell recruitment during the immune response in starfish larvae. This is the first report describing opposing functions for MIF- and DDT-like molecules. Our findings provide novel insight into the mechanisms underlying immune regulation in invertebrates.
ASJC Scopus subject areas