Vitellogenin (Vtg), the major egg yolk precursor protein, is traditionally thought to provide protein- and lipid-rich nutrients for developing embryos and larvae. However, the roles of Vtg as well as its derived yolk proteins lipovitellin (Lv) and phosvitin (Pv) extend beyond nutritional functions. Accumulating data have demonstrated that Vtg, Lv and Pv participate in host innate immune defense with multifaceted functions. They can all act as multivalent pattern recognition receptors capable of identifying invading microbes. Vtg and Pv can also act as immune effectors capable of killing bacteria and virus. Moreover, Vtg and Lv are shown to possess phagocytosis-promoting activity as opsonins. In addition to these immune-relevant functions, Vtg and Pv are found to have antioxidant activity, which is able to protect the host from oxidant stress. These non-nutritional functions clearly deepen our understanding of the physiological roles of the molecules, and at the same time, provide a sound basis for potential application of the molecules in human health.
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