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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jun 9;106(23):9138-43. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904064106. Epub 2009 Jun 2.

Identification of the nuclear receptor DAF-12 as a therapeutic target in parasitic nematodes.

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Department of Pharmacology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


Nematode parasitism is a worldwide health problem resulting in malnutrition and morbidity in over 1 billion people. The molecular mechanisms governing infection are poorly understood. Here, we report that an evolutionarily conserved nuclear hormone receptor signaling pathway governs development of the stage 3 infective larvae (iL3) in several nematode parasites, including Strongyloides stercoralis, Ancylostoma spp., and Necator americanus. As in the free-living Caenorhabditis elegans, steroid hormone-like dafachronic acids induced recovery of the dauer-like iL3 in parasitic nematodes by activating orthologs of the nuclear receptor DAF-12. Moreover, administration of dafachronic acid markedly reduced the pathogenic iL3 population in S. stercoralis, indicating the potential use of DAF-12 ligands to treat disseminated strongyloidiasis. To understand the pharmacology of targeting DAF-12, we solved the 3-dimensional structure of the S. stercoralis DAF-12 ligand-binding domain cocrystallized with dafachronic acids. These results reveal the molecular basis for DAF-12 ligand binding and identify nuclear receptors as unique therapeutic targets in parasitic nematodes.

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