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Prostaglandin E1 Is an Efficient Molecular Tool for Forest Leech Blood Sucking

  • Zheng, Fenshuang1
  • Zhang, Min2, 3
  • Yang, Xingwei4
  • Wu, Feilong2, 3
  • Wang, Gan2
  • Feng, Xingxing5
  • Ombati, Rose2, 3
  • Zuo, Ruiling1
  • Yang, Canju6
  • Liu, Jun7
  • Lai, Ren2, 3, 8
  • Luo, Xiaodong4
  • Long, Chengbo2, 3
  • 1 Department of Emergency Medicine, Second People's Hospital of Yunnan Province, Kunming , (China)
  • 2 Key Laboratory of Animal Models and Human Disease Mechanisms of Chinese Academy of Sciences & Yunnan Province, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Kunming , (China)
  • 3 Kunming College of Life Science, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming , (China)
  • 4 State Key Laboratory of Phytochemistry and Plant Resources in West China, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming , (China)
  • 5 Department of Clinical Laboratory, Kunming Children's Hospital, Kunming , (China)
  • 6 Dali People's Hospital of Yunnan Province, Dali , (China)
  • 7 Dehong People's Hospital, Mangshi , (China)
  • 8 Sino-African Joint Research Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan , (China)
Published Article
Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Frontiers Media S.A.
Publication Date
Jan 07, 2021
DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2020.615915
  • Veterinary Science
  • Original Research


From a survival perspective, it is hypothesized that leech saliva exhibits certain physiological effects to ensure fast blood-feeding, including analgesia, anesthesia, and anti-inflammation to stay undetected by the host and vasodilatation and anti-hemostasis to ensure a steady, rapid, and sustained blood flow to the feeding site. Many anti-hemostatic compounds have been identified in leech saliva, such as hirudin, calin, and bdellin A. However, no specific substance with direct vasodilatory and anti-inflammatory function has been reported from forest leech saliva. Herein, using activity-guided analysis, prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) was identified for the first time as an efficient molecular tool for forest leech blood sucking. The structure of PGE1 was analyzed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and high-resolution electrospray ionization mass spectroscopy. PGE1 was found to be primarily distributed in the leech salivary gland (1228.36 ng/g body weight). We also analyzed how forest leech PGE1 affects platelet aggregation, skin vascular permeability, bleeding time, and pain. Results indicated that PGE1 efficiently inhibited platelet aggregation induced by adenosine diphosphate (ADP) (5 μM) with an IC50 of 21.81 ± 2.24 nM. At doses of 10, 100 nM, and 1 μM, PGE1 increased vascular permeability by 1.18, 5.8, and 9.2 times. It also prolonged bleeding time in a concentration-independent manner. In the formalin-induced mouse paw pain model, PGE1 suppressed acute pain. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on PGE1 in invertebrates. The functions of PGE1, such as vasodilation, platelet aggregation inhibition, anti-inflammation, and pain alleviation, may facilitate the ingestion of host blood by leeches.

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