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Front Genet. 2014 Jul 21;5:230. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00230. eCollection 2014.

Schistosomes and snails: a molecular encounter.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine, The George Washington University Washington, DC, USA.
2
Biosciences, Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University London London, UK.
3
Schistosomiasis, Biomedical Research Institute Rockville, MD, USA.

Abstract

Biomphalaria glabrata snails play an integral role in the transmission of Schistosoma mansoni, the causative agent for human schistosomiasis in the Western hemisphere. For the past two decades, tremendous advances have been made in research aimed at elucidating the molecular basis of the snail/parasite interaction. The growing concern that there is no vaccine to prevent schistosomiasis and only one effective drug in existence provides the impetus to develop new control strategies based on eliminating schistosomes at the snail-stage of the life cycle. To elucidate why a given snail is not always compatible to each and every schistosome it encounters, B. glabrata that are either resistant or susceptible to a given strain of S. mansoni have been employed to track molecular mechanisms governing the snail/schistosome relationship. With such snails, genetic markers for resistance and susceptibility were identified. Additionally, differential gene expression studies have led to the identification of genes that underlie these phenotypes. Lately, the role of schistosomes in mediating non-random relocation of gene loci has been identified for the first time, making B. glabrata a model organism where chromatin regulation by changes in nuclear architecture, known as spatial epigenetics, orchestrated by a major human parasite can now be investigated. This review will highlight the progress that has been made in using molecular approaches to describe snail/schistosome compatibility issues. Uncovering the signaling networks triggered by schistosomes that provide the impulse to turn genes on and off in the snail host, thereby controlling the outcome of infection, could also yield new insights into anti-parasite mechanism(s) that operate in the human host as well.

KEYWORDS:

B. glabrata; S. mansoni; compatibility; gene loci re-localization; gene-expression; intermediate snail host; resistance; susceptibility

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