Research Article

Blood feeding in juvenile Paragnathia formica (Isopoda: Gnathiidae): biochemical characterization of trypsin inhibitors, detection of anticoagulants, and molecular identification of fish hosts

B. M. MANSHIPa1, A. J. WALKERa1 c1, L. A. JONESa1 and A. J. DAVIESa1

a1 School of Life Sciences, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1 2EE, UK


The 3 post-marsupial juvenile stages of the gnathiid isopod, Paragnathia formica, are haematophagous ectoparasites of fishes that may, in heavy infestations, cause host mortality. Protein digestion in fed stage 3 juveniles is accomplished by cysteine proteinases, but what bioactive compounds attenuate host haemostatic, inflammatory and immunological responses during feeding is unknown. Trypsin inhibitory activity and anticoagulant activity were detected in crude extracts of unfed P. formica stage 1 juveniles; fractionation of stage 1 crude extracts by ion exchange chromatography resulted in 3 preparations each displaying these bioactivities. Further characterization revealed anti-thrombin activity in 2 of these preparations, whilst the third displayed the strongest anticoagulant activity that targeted a factor of the intrinsic coagulation pathway. Three trypsin inhibitors (18 kDa, 21 kDa, and 22 kDa) were also detected using reverse zymography. In parallel, homogenates of fed stage 2 and 3 juveniles were used to identify their fish hosts by amplifying the 16S mitochondrial rDNA and 18S genomic rDNA vertebrate gene regions. Blood from at least 4 fish families had been ingested by separate individuals during feeding. This study demonstrates that trypsin inhibitors and anticoagulants are present in P. formica juveniles which could suppress host haemostatic, inflammatory and immunological responses during feeding, and that juveniles are not host specific.

(Received July 21 2011)

(Revised October 07 2011)

(Accepted November 14 2011)

(Online publication February 06 2012)


c1 Corresponding author: Tel: +44 208 547 2466. Fax: +44 208 547 7562. E-mail: