Harpalus (Pseudoophonus) rufipes as a model to study cellular and humoral immune defence strategies in coleopteran species
Keywords:hemocytes, ultrastructure, phagocytosis, nodulation, phenoloxidase, lysozyme, carabid beetles
Carabids are of special interest as environmental quality assessment indicators of exposure to xenobiotic and for pest control. In agroecosystems, they can be exposed to a wide range of pathogens and environmental pollution exerting a stronger selection on their innate immune systems. Therefore, information on species-specific immunocompetence is necessary to complete the ecological framework of ground beetles. In this study, cellular and humoral responses were characterized in adults of Harpalus (Pseudoophonus) rufipes (De Geer, 1774) to define a baseline knowledge for future ecotoxicological studies. The circulating hemocytes were characterized by light and transmission electron microscopy and in vivo assay performed by injecting latex beads to identify phagocytizing hemocytes. Ultrastructural analyses revealed four morphologically distinct types of circulating hemocytes: prohemocytes, plasmatocytes, granular cells and oenocytoids. Differential hemocyte counts showed that plasmatocytes and granular cells were the most abundant circulating cell types and granular cells exhibited phagocytic activity following immune challenge with latex beads. Mitotic figures and non-differentiated hemocytes observed under light microscopy indicate a continuous cell turnover in the hemolymph. Melanotic nodules found 2h after the immune challenge were formed to immobilize the latex beads. Phenoloxidase (PO) assays revealed an increase of basal PO activity in hemolymph after immune system activation with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). However, the LPS-stimulated adults showed no significant variation in the lysozyme-like enzyme activity in hemolymph. Based on these results, H. rufipes displays a rapid, non-specific immune response involving cellular and humoral effectors that both sequester and clear pathogens.