By microarray screening, we identified a white spot syndrome virus (WSSV)-strongly induced novel gene in gills of Penaeus monodon. The gene, PmERP15, encodes a putative transmembrane protein of 15 kDa, which only showed some degree of similarity (54-59%) to several unknown insect proteins, but had no hits to shrimp proteins. RT-PCR showed that PmERP15 was highly expressed in the hemocytes, heart and lymphoid organs, and that WSSV-induced strong expression of PmERP15 was evident in all tissues examined. Western blot analysis likewise showed that WSSV strongly up-regulated PmERP15 protein levels. In WSSV-infected hemocytes, immunofluorescence staining showed that PmERP15 protein was colocalized with an ER enzyme, protein disulfide isomerase, and in Sf9 insect cells, PmERP15-EGFP fusion protein colocalized with ER -Tracker™ Red dye as well. GRP78, an ER stress marker, was found to be up-regulated in WSSV-infected P.monodon, and both PmERP15 and GRP78 were up-regulated in shrimp injected with ER stress inducers tunicamycin and dithiothreitol. Silencing experiments showed that although PmERP15 dsRNA-injected shrimp succumbed to WSSV infection more rapidly, the WSSV copy number had no significant changes. These results suggest that PmERP15 is an ER stress-induced, ER resident protein, and its induction in WSSV-infected shrimp is caused by the ER stress triggered by WSSV infection. Furthermore, although PmERP15 has no role in WSSV multiplication, its presence is essential for the survival of WSSV-infected shrimp.
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