Deimination Protein Profiles in Alligator mississippiensis Reveal Plasma and Extracellular Vesicle-Specific Signatures Relating to Immunity, Metabolic Function, and Gene Regulation.
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Alligators are crocodilians and among few species that endured the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. With long life spans, low metabolic rates, unusual immunological characteristics, including strong antibacterial and antiviral ability, and cancer resistance, crocodilians may hold information for molecular pathways underlying such physiological traits. Peptidylarginine deiminases (PADs) are a group of calcium-activated enzymes that cause posttranslational protein deimination/citrullination in a range of target proteins contributing to protein moonlighting functions in health and disease. PADs are phylogenetically conserved and are also a key regulator of extracellular vesicle (EV) release, a critical part of cellular communication. As little is known about PAD-mediated mechanisms in reptile immunology, this study was aimed at profiling EVs and protein deimination in Alligator mississippiensis. Alligator plasma EVs were found to be polydispersed in a 50-400-nm size range. Key immune, metabolic, and gene regulatory proteins were identified to be posttranslationally deiminated in plasma and plasma EVs, with some overlapping hits, while some were unique to either plasma or plasma EVs. In whole plasma, 112 target proteins were identified to be deiminated, while 77 proteins were found as deiminated protein hits in plasma EVs, whereof 31 were specific for EVs only, including proteins specific for gene regulatory functions (e.g., histones). Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) enrichment analysis revealed KEGG pathways specific to deiminated proteins in whole plasma related to adipocytokine signaling, while KEGG pathways of deiminated proteins specific to EVs included ribosome, biosynthesis of amino acids, and glycolysis/gluconeogenesis pathways as well as core histones. This highlights roles for EV-mediated export of deiminated protein cargo with roles in metabolism and gene regulation, also related to cancer. The identification of posttranslational deimination and EV-mediated communication in alligator plasma revealed here contributes to current understanding of protein moonlighting functions and EV-mediated communication in these ancient reptiles, providing novel insight into their unusual immune systems and physiological traits. In addition, our findings may shed light on pathways underlying cancer resistance, antibacterial and antiviral resistance, with translatable value to human pathologies.