Coelomocytes are recognized as the main cellular component of the echinoderm immune system. They are the first line of defense and their number and type can vary dramatically during infections or following injury. Sea stars have been used as a model system to study the regeneration process after autotomy or predation. In the present study we examined the cellular and biochemical responses of coelomocytes from the European sea star Asterias rubens to traumatic stress using immunochemical and biochemical approaches. In terms of trauma and post-traumatic stress period, here we consider the experimental arm amputation and the repair phase involved in the first 24 hours post-amputation, which mimicked a natural predation event. Four cell morphotypes were distinguishable in the coelomic fluid of both control and post-traumatic-stressed animals (phagocytes, amoebocytes, vibratile cells, hemocytes), but phagocytes were the major components, accounting for about 95% of the total population. Thus, the effects measured relate to the overall population of coelomocytes. A modest increase in the total number of freely circulating coelomocytes was observed 6 hours post-amputation. Interestingly, a monoclonal antibody (McAb) to a sea urchin embryo adhesion protein (toposome) cross-reacted with isolated sea star coelomocytes and stained the coelomic epithelium of control animals with an increase in trauma-stressed arms. In addition, coelomocytes from trauma-stressed animals showed a time-dependent increase in Hsp70 levels, as detected by both immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting within 24 hours after arm tip amputation, with a peak at 6 hours after amputation. Our findings indicate a clear role for coelomocytes and classic stress molecules in the post-traumatic stress associated with the early repair phase of regeneration.
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