Molecular collaborations between serpins and trefoil factor promote endodermal cell growth and gastrointestinal differentiation in budding tunicates


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We present evidence supporting novel collaborations between the serine protease inhibitor (serpin) and the trefoil factor during the budding stage of the tunicate Polyandrocarpa misakiensis. Using a maltose-binding protein/P-serpin fusion protein, two polypeptides of 40 kDa and 45 kDa were pulled down from Polyandrocarpa homogenates. Based on their partial amino acid sequence data, a single cDNA (928 bp) was cloned. It encodes a polypeptide that has five tandem repeats of a trefoil consensus motif. Thus, we termed the cDNA P-trefoil. Both P-trefoil and P-serpin were expressed exclusively by coelomic cells during budding. P-Trefoil was expressed mainly by coelomic cells throughout the asexual life cycle of Polyandrocarpa, while P-Serpin was localized particularly in coelomic cells and in the extracellular matrix in developing buds. The native P-Trefoil protein showed aminopeptidase activity. It induced cell growth in cultured Polyandrocarpa cells at a concentration of 8 µg/mL. P-Serpin reinforced this activity of P-Trefoil. Further, a mixture of P-Trefoil and P-Serpin exhibited the in vitro induction of a gut-specific alkaline phosphatase. These results show for the first time that a serpin can interact with a trefoil factor to play a role in the cellular growth and differentiation of the gastric epithelium.