Recent studies demonstrated that allograft inflammatory factor-1 (AIF-1) and RNASET2 act as chemoattractants for macrophages and modulate the inflammatory processes in both vertebrates and invertebrates. The expression of these proteins significantly increases after bacterial infection; however, the mechanisms by which they regulate the innate immune response are still poorly defined. Here, we evaluate the effect of bacterial lipopolysaccharide injection on the expression pattern of these genes and the interrelation between them during innate immune response in the medicinal leech, an invertebrate model with a simple anatomy and a marked similarity with vertebrates in inflammatory processes. Collectively, prokaryotic-eukaryotic co-cultures and in vivo infection assays suggest that RNASET2 and AIF-1 play a crucial role in orchestrating a functional cross-talk between granulocytes and macrophages in leeches, resulting in the activation of an effective response against pathogen infection. RNASET2, firstly released by granulocytes, likely plays an early antibacterial role. Subsequently, AIF-1+ RNASET2-recruited macrophages further recruit other macrophages to potentiate the antibacterial inflammatory response. These experimental data are in keeping with the notion of RNA-SET2 acting as an alarmin-like molecule whose role is to locally transmit a “danger” signal (such as a bacterial infection) to the innate immune system in order to trigger an appropriate host response.

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