Abstract. Triatoma infestans is an important hematophagous vector of Chagas disease, a neglected chronic illness affecting approximately 6 million people in Latin America. Hematophagous insects possess several molecules in their saliva that counteract host defensive responses. Calreticulin (CRT), a multifunctional protein secreted in saliva, contributes to the feeding process in some insects. Human CRT (HuCRT) and Trypanosoma cruzi CRT (TcCRT) inhibit the classical pathway of complement activation, mainly by interacting through their central S domain with complement component C1. In previous studies, we have detected CRT in salivary gland extracts from T. infestans. We have called this molecule TiCRT. Given that the S domain is responsible for C1 binding, we have tested its role in the classical pathway of complement activation in vertebrate blood. We have cloned and characterized the complete nucleotide sequence of CRT from T. infestans, and expressed its S domain. As expected, this S domain binds to human C1 and, as a consequence, it inhibits the classical pathway of complement, at its earliest stage of activation, namely the generation of C4b. Possibly, the presence of TiCRT in the salivary gland represents an evolutionary adaptation in hematophagous insects to control a potential activation of complement proteins, present in the massive blood meal that they ingest, with deleterious consequences at least on the anterior digestive tract of these insects.
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