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Acta Biochim Pol. 2006;53(1):33-64. Epub 2006 Jan 12.

Molecules released by helminth parasites involved in host colonization.

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  • Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warszawa, Poland. j.dzik@nencki.gov.pl


Parasites are designed by evolution to invade the host and survive in its organism until they are ready to reproduce. Parasites release a variety of molecules that help them to penetrate the defensive barriers and avoid the immune attack of the host. In this respect, particularly interesting are enzymes and their inhibitors secreted by the parasites. Serine-, aspartic-, cysteine-, and metalloproteinases are involved in tissue invasion and extracellular protein digestion. Helminths secrete inhibitors of these enzymes (serpins, aspins, and cystatins) to inhibit proteinases, both of the host and their own. Proteinases and their inhibitors, as well as helminth homologues of cytokines and molecules containing phosphorylcholine, influence the immune response of the host biasing it towards the anti-inflammatory Th2 type. Nucleotide-metabolizing enzymes and cholinesterase are secreted by worms to reduce inflammation and expel the parasites from the gastrointestinal tract. An intracellular metazoan parasite, Trichinella spiralis, secretes, among others, protein kinases and phosphatases, endonucleases, and DNA-binding proteins, which are all thought to interfere with the host cellular signals for muscle cell differentiation. Secretion of antioxidant enzymes is believed to protect the parasite from reactive oxygen species which arise from the infection-stimulated host phagocytes. Aside from superoxide dismutase, catalase (rarely found in helminths), and glutathione peroxidase (selenium-independent, thus having a poor activity with H(2)O(2)), peroxiredoxins are probably the major H(2)O(2)-detoxifying enzymes in helminths. Secretion of antioxidant enzymes is stage-specific and there are examples of regulation of their expression by the concentration of reactive oxygen species surrounding the parasite. The majority of parasite-secreted molecules are commonly found in free-living organisms, thus parasites have only adapted them to use in their way of life.

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