Molluscs are major contributors to the international and Australian aquaculture industries, however, their immune systems remain poorly understood due to limited access to draft genomes and evidence of divergences from model organisms. As invertebrates, molluscs lack adaptive immune systems or ‘memory’, and rely solely on innate immunity for antimicrobial defence. Hemolymph, the circulatory fluid of invertebrates, contains hemocytes which secrete effector molecules with immune regulatory functions. Interactions between mollusc effector molecules and bacterial and fungal pathogens have been well documented, however, there is limited knowledge of their roles against viruses, which cause high mortality and significant production losses in these species. Of the major effector molecules, only the direct acting protein dicer-2 and the antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) hemocyanin and myticin-C have shown antiviral activity. A better understanding of these effector molecules may allow for the manipulation of mollusc proteomes to enhance antiviral and overall antimicrobial defence to prevent future outbreaks and minimize economic outbreaks. Moreover, effector molecule research may yield the description and production of novel antimicrobial treatments for a broad host range of animal species.
A. Watson, Jacinta Agius, Danielle Ackerly