• Innate immunity;
  • Invertebrates;
  • Leech;
  • Nervous system


Once considered as lacking intrinsic immune mechanisms, the CNS of vertebrates is now known to be capable of mounting its own innate immune response. Interestingly, while invertebrates have been very useful in the interpretation of general vertebrate innate immunity mechanisms, only scarce data are available on the immune response of nervous tissue within this group. This study provides new data on the innate immune response of medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis CNS. We identified several spots in 2-D gels of leech CNS proteins that showed specific changes following bacterial challenge, thus demonstrating the ability of the leech nervous system to mount a response to an immune stress. Protein identifications were based on comparison of sequence data with publicly available databases and a recently established leech ESTs database. The broad nature of the identified proteins suggests a clear involvement of cytoskeletal rearrangements, endoplasmic reticulum stress, modulation of synaptic activity and calcium mobilization, all during the first 24 hours of this response. Moreover, several of these proteins are specifically expressed in glial cells, suggesting an important role for glial cells in the immune response of the leech nervous system, similar to what has been observed in vertebrates.