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Recombinant HvRNASET2 protein induces marked connective tissue remodelling in the invertebrate model Hirudo verbana

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The RNASET2 ribonuclease, belonging to the highly conserved RH/T2/s RNase gene family, has been recently shown to modulate inflammatory processes in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Indeed, the RNASET2 protein acts as a chemoattractor for macrophages in both in vitro and in vivo experimental settings and its expression significantly increases following bacterial infections. Moreover, we recently observed that injection of human recombinant RNASET2 protein in the body wall of the medicinal leech (a consolidated invertebrate model for both immune response and tissue regeneration) not only induced immune cell recruitment but also apparently triggered massive connective tissue remodelling as well. Based on these data, we evaluate here a possible role of leech recombinant RNASET2 protein (rHvRNASET2) in connective tissue remodelling by characterizing the cell types involved in this process through histochemical, morphological and immunofluorescent assays. Moreover, a time-course expression analysis of newly synthesized pro-collagen1α1 (COL1α1) and basic FGF receptor (bFGFR, a known fibroblast marker) following rHvRNASET2 injection in the leech body wall further supported the occurrence of rHvRNASET2-mediated matrix remodelling. Human MRC-5 fibroblast cells were also investigated in order to evaluate their pattern of collagen neosynthesis driven by rHvRNASET2 injection.

Taken together, the data reported in this work provide compelling evidence in support of a pleiotropic role for RNASET2 in orchestrating an evolutionarily conserved crosstalk between inflammatory response and regenerative process, based on macrophage recruitment and fibroblast activation, coupled to a massive extracellular reorganization.

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Nicolò Baranzini is a PhD student of the Biotechnology, Biosciences and Surgical Technology course at the University of Insubria.


This work was supported by the CARIPLO foundation (URL, FRAMYEVO to MdE, grant code 2016–0835 and by FAR 2017–2018 (Fondi dell’Ateneo per la Ricerca, University of Insubria) to AG, FA and GT.

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Correspondence to Francesco Acquati or Annalisa Grimaldi.

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Baranzini, N., Weiss-Gayet, M., Chazaud, B. et al. Recombinant HvRNASET2 protein induces marked connective tissue remodelling in the invertebrate model Hirudo verbana. Cell Tissue Res (2020).

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  • Fibroblasts
  • COL1α1
  • Connective tissue remodelling
  • Medicinal leech