Marine Biology

, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 473–482 | Cite as

Characterisation of cysteine proteinase activities in the digestive tract of juvenile Paragnathia formica isopods, ectoparasites of estuarine fish

  • Brigitte M. Manship
  • Anthony J. WalkerEmail author
  • Lucy A. Jones
  • Angela J. Davies
Research Article


Juveniles of Paragnathia formica Hesse (Isopoda; Gnathiidae) are haematophagous ectoparasites, feeding on fish blood which supplies the nutrients for their development through growth and moulting, and the subsequent survival and reproduction of the free-living adults. Little is known of the mechanisms of digestion in juvenile gnathiids, and biochemical studies on the digestive tract of these interesting estuarine isopods have not been undertaken previously. Here, functionally active cathepsin-like cysteine proteinases are identified in the digestive system of juvenile praniza (fed) and zuphea (unfed) forms. The physiological pH of the digestive tract and the optimum proteolytic activities detected in praniza 3 homogenates using the cathepsin B/L, cathepsin B, and cathepsin H fluorogenic substrates, N-Carbobenzoxy-Phe-Arg-4-methoxy-2-naphthylamine (Z-phe-arg-MNA), N-Carbobenzoxy-Arg-Arg-4-methoxy-2-naphthylamine (Z-arg-arg-MNA) and Arg-4-methoxy-2-naphthylamine (H-arg-MNA), respectively, are in the acidic range (pH 5.8–6.7). Inhibition profiles against Z-phe-arg-MNA and Z-arg-arg-MNA using the cathepsin B inactivator urea, and cysteine proteinase inhibitors, support the presence of cathepsin L- and B-like enzymes. These proteolytic activities are 10–50 times higher in homogenates of praniza 3 compared with zuphea 3 forms. Histochemistry of praniza 3 sections reveals that the predominant enzyme activity towards Z-phe-arg-MNA is limited to the digestive glands during early and mid stages of digestion; later, this activity appears in the lining of the anterior hindgut. Moreover, activity towards Z-arg-arg-MNA is generally restricted to the digestive glands, and only occasionally present in the anterior hindgut. In conclusion, the digestive glands are the main site of cathepsin-like cysteine proteinase activities in P. formica juveniles; these enzymes appear to be important to the digestion of host fish blood enabling development through to the free-living adult.


Proteolytic Activity Cysteine Proteinase Digestive Gland Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitor Enzyme Histochemistry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We acknowledge the Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Group (BPSRG) of Kingston University in providing a studentship to B. Manship. We are also grateful to Drs Mike Johnston and Nico Smit, and Ms. Polly Hayes for their help in collections on the Welsh saltmarshes, and we thank the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Ynyshir Nature Reserve, for allowing us access to the Dovey Estuary.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brigitte M. Manship
    • 1
  • Anthony J. Walker
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lucy A. Jones
    • 1
  • Angela J. Davies
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesKingston UniversityKingston upon ThamesUK

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