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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2010 Feb 9;4(2):e600. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000600.

Transcriptional changes in Schistosoma mansoni during early schistosomula development and in the presence of erythrocytes.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Queensland, Australia.



Schistosomes cause more mortality and morbidity than any other human helminth, but control primarily relies on a single drug that kills adult worms. The newly transformed schistosomulum stage is susceptible to the immune response and is a target for vaccine development and rational drug design.


To identify genes which are up-regulated during the maturation of Schistosoma mansoni schistosomula in vitro, we cultured newly transformed parasites for 3 h or 5 days with and without erythrocytes and compared their transcriptional profiles using cDNA microarrays. The most apparent changes were in the up-regulation of genes between 3 h and 5 day schistosomula involved in blood feeding, tegument and cytoskeletal development, cell adhesion, and stress responses. The most highly up-regulated genes included a tegument tetraspanin Sm-tsp-3 (1,600-fold up-regulation), a protein kinase, a novel serine protease and serine protease inhibitor, and intestinal proteases belonging to distinct mechanistic classes. The inclusion of erythrocytes in the culture medium resulted in a general but less pronounced increase in transcriptional activity, with the highest up-regulation of genes involved in iron metabolism, proteolysis, and transport of fatty acids and sugars.


We have identified the genes that are up-regulated during the first 5 days of schistosomula development in vitro. Using a combination of gene silencing techniques and murine protection studies, some of these highly up-regulated transcripts can be targeted for future development of new vaccines and drugs.

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