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Two metalloproteases have recently been linked to the immune response in Lepidoptera. In addition, zinc is highly important in many mammalian immune-related functions. Because of these, we investigated the effect of zinc and two zinc-protease inhibitors on Manduca sexta hemocyte behavior in vitro. Plasmatocytes were significantly more elongated in Grace's medium supplemented with 100 µm zinc chloride than in the absence of zinc. To test whether zinc-dependent proteases were responsible for the increased length seen in the presence of zinc, we tested two zinc-protease inhibitors, phosphoramidon and bestatin. Each resulted in decreased plasmatocyte length compared to the control, but the distributions of lengths differed with each inhibitor. Each inhibitor also affected plasmatocyte network formation in vitro. This work suggests (1) that at least two different zinc proteases are involved in the cellular defense response of M. sexta, and (2) that zinc should be included in media used for in vitro studies of the immune response.
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