Chitin synthases are critical for reproduction, molting, and digestion in the salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionLife. 2021, 11, 47. 10.3390/life11010047
Chitin synthase (CHS) is a large transmembrane enzyme that polymerizes Uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine into chitin. The genomes of insects often encode two chitin synthases, CHS1 and CHS2. Their functional roles have been investigated in several insects: CHS1 is mainly responsible for synthesizing chitin in the cuticle and CHS2 in the midgut. Lepeophtheirus salmonis is an ectoparasitic copepod on salmonid fish, which causes significant economic losses in aquaculture. In the present study, the tissue-specific localization, expression, and functional role of L. salmonis chitin synthases, LsCHS1 and LsCHS2, were investigated. The expressions of LsCHS1 and LsCHS2 were found in oocytes, ovaries, intestine, and integument. Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) chitin staining signals were detected in ovaries, oocytes, intestine, cuticle, and intestine in adult female L. salmonis. The functional roles of the LsCHSs were investigated using RNA interference (RNAi) to silence the expression of LsCHS1 and LsCHS2. Knockdown of LsCHS1 in pre-adult I lice resulted in lethal phenotypes with cuticle deformation and deformation of ovaries and oocytes in adult lice. RNAi knockdown of LsCHS2 in adult female L. salmonis affected digestion, damaged the gut microvilli, reduced muscular tissues around the gut, and affected offspring. The results demonstrate that both LsCHS1 and LsCHS2 are important for the survival and reproduction in L. salmonis.