Veterinary Biosciences - Research Publications

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    The mitochondrial genomes of Ancylostoma caninum and Bunostomum phlebotomum - two hookworms of animal health and zoonotic importance
    Jex, AR ; Waeschenbach, A ; Hu, M ; Van Wyk, JA ; Beveridge, I ; Littlewood, DTJ ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2009-02-11)
    BACKGROUND: Hookworms are blood-feeding nematodes that parasitize the small intestines of many mammals, including humans and cattle. These nematodes are of major socioeconomic importance and cause disease, mainly as a consequence of anaemia (particularly in children or young animals), resulting in impaired development and sometimes deaths. Studying genetic variability within and among hookworm populations is central to addressing epidemiological and ecological questions, thus assisting in the control of hookworm disease. Mitochondrial (mt) genes are known to provide useful population markers for hookworms, but mt genome sequence data are scant. RESULTS: The present study characterizes the complete mt genomes of two species of hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum (from dogs) and Bunostomum phlebotomum (from cattle), each sequenced (by 454 technology or primer-walking), following long-PCR amplification from genomic DNA (approximately 20-40 ng) isolated from individual adult worms. These mt genomes were 13717 bp and 13790 bp in size, respectively, and each contained 12 protein coding, 22 transfer RNA and 2 ribosomal RNA genes, typical for other secernentean nematodes. In addition, phylogenetic analysis (by Bayesian inference and maximum likelihood) of concatenated mt protein sequence data sets for 12 nematodes (including Ancylostoma caninum and Bunostomum phlebotomum), representing the Ascaridida, Spirurida and Strongylida, was conducted. The analysis yielded maximum statistical support for the formation of monophyletic clades for each recognized nematode order assessed, except for the Rhabditida. CONCLUSION: The mt genomes characterized herein represent a rich source of population genetic markers for epidemiological and ecological studies. The strong statistical support for the construction of phylogenetic clades and consistency between the two different tree-building methods employed indicate the value of using whole mt genome data sets for systematic studies of nematodes. The grouping of the Spirurida and Ascaridida to the exclusion of the Strongylida was not supported in the present analysis, a finding which conflicts with the current evolutionary hypothesis for the Nematoda based on nuclear ribosomal gene data.
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    Using 454 technology for long-PCR based sequencing of the complete mitochondrial genome from single Haemonchus contortus (Nematoda)
    Jex, AR ; Hu, M ; Littlewood, DTJ ; Waeschenbach, A ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2008-01-11)
    BACKGROUND: Mitochondrial (mt) genomes represent a rich source of molecular markers for a range of applications, including population genetics, systematics, epidemiology and ecology. In the present study, we used 454 technology (or the GS20, massively parallel picolitre reactor platform) to determine the complete mt genome of Haemonchus contortus (Nematoda: Trichostrongylidae), a parasite of substantial agricultural, veterinary and economic significance. We validate this approach by comparison with mt sequences from publicly available expressed sequence tag (EST) and genomic survey sequence (GSS) data sets. RESULTS: The complete mt genome of Haemonchus contortus was sequenced directly from long-PCR amplified template utilizing genomic DNA (~20-40 ng) from a single adult male using 454 technology. A single contig was assembled and compared against mt sequences mined from publicly available EST (NemBLAST) and GSS datasets. The comparison demonstrated that the 454 technology platform is reliable for the sequencing of AT-rich mt genomes from nematodes. The mt genome sequenced for Haemonchus contortus was 14,055 bp in length and was highly AT-rich (78.1%). In accordance with other chromadorean nematodes studied to date, the mt genome of H. contortus contained 36 genes (12 protein coding, 22 tRNAs, rrnL and rrnS) and was similar in structure, size and gene arrangement to those characterized previously for members of the Strongylida. CONCLUSION: The present study demonstrates the utility of 454 technology for the rapid determination of mt genome sequences from tiny amounts of DNA and reveals a wealth of mt genomic data in current databases available for mining. This approach provides a novel platform for high-throughput sequencing of mt genomes from nematodes and other organisms.
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    Tv-RIO1-an atypical protein kinase from the parasitic nematode Trichostrongylus vitrinus
    Hu, M ; LaRonde-LeBlanc, N ; Sternberg, PW ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2008-09-22)
    UNLABELLED: BACKGROUND: Protein kinases are key enzymes that regulate a wide range of cellular processes, including cell-cycle progression, transcription, DNA replication and metabolic functions. These enzymes catalyse the transfer of phosphates to serine, threonine and tyrosine residues, thus playing functional roles in reversible protein phosphorylation. There are two main groups, namely eukaryotic protein kinases (ePKs) and atypical protein kinases (aPKs); RIO kinases belong to the latter group. While there is some information about RIO kinases and their roles in animals, nothing is known about them in parasites. This is the first study to characterise a RIO1 kinase from any parasite. RESULTS: A full-length cDNA (Tv-rio-1) encoding a RIO1 protein kinase (Tv-RIO1) was isolated from the economically important parasitic nematode Trichostrongylus vitrinus (Order Strongylida). The uninterrupted open reading frame (ORF) of 1476 nucleotides encoded a protein of 491 amino acids, containing the characteristic RIO1 motif LVHADLSEYNTL. Tv-rio-1 was transcribed at the highest level in the third-stage larva (L3), and a higher level in adult females than in males. Comparison with homologues from other organisms showed that protein Tv-RIO1 had significant homology to related proteins from a range of metazoans and plants. Amino acid sequence identity was most pronounced in the ATP-binding motif, active site and metal binding loop. Phylogenetic analyses of selected amino acid sequence data revealed Tv-RIO1 to be most closely related to the proteins in the species of Caenorhabditis. A structural model of Tv-RIO1 was constructed and compared with the published crystal structure of RIO1 of Archaeoglobus fulgidus (Af-Rio1). CONCLUSION: This study provides the first insights into the RIO1 protein kinases of nematodes, and a foundation for further investigations into the biochemical and functional roles of this molecule in biological processes in parasitic nematodes.
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    The Mitochondrial Genome of Toxocara canis
    Jex, AR ; Waeschenbach, A ; Littlewood, DTJ ; Hu, M ; Gasser, RB ; Unnasch, TR (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2008-08-01)
    Toxocara canis (Ascaridida: Nematoda), which parasitizes (at the adult stage) the small intestine of canids, can be transmitted to a range of other mammals, including humans, and can cause the disease toxocariasis. Despite its significance as a pathogen, the genetics, epidemiology and biology of this parasite remain poorly understood. In addition, the zoonotic potential of related species of Toxocara, such as T. cati and T. malaysiensis, is not well known. Mitochondrial DNA is known to provide genetic markers for investigations in these areas, but complete mitochondrial genomic data have been lacking for T. canis and its congeners. In the present study, the mitochondrial genome of T. canis was amplified by long-range polymerase chain reaction (long PCR) and sequenced using a primer-walking strategy. This circular mitochondrial genome was 14162 bp and contained 12 protein-coding, 22 transfer RNA, and 2 ribosomal RNA genes consistent for secementean nematodes, including Ascaris suum and Anisakis simplex (Ascaridida). The mitochondrial genome of T. canis provides genetic markers for studies into the systematics, population genetics and epidemiology of this zoonotic parasite and its congeners. Such markers can now be used in prospecting for cryptic species and for exploring host specificity and zoonotic potential, thus underpinning the prevention and control of toxocariasis in humans and other hosts.
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    A transcriptomic analysis of the adult stage of the bovine lungworm, Dictyocaulus viviparus
    Ranganathan, S ; Nagaraj, SH ; Hu, M ; Strube, C ; Schnieder, T ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2007-09-05)
    BACKGROUND: Lungworms of the genus Dictyocaulus (family Dictyocaulidae) are parasitic nematodes of major economic importance. They cause pathological effects and clinical disease in various ruminant hosts, particularly in young animals. Dictyocaulus viviparus, called the bovine lungworm, is a major pathogen of cattle, with severe infections being fatal. In this study, we provide first insights into the transcriptome of the adult stage of D. viviparus through the analysis of expressed sequence tags (ESTs). RESULTS: Using our EST analysis pipeline, we estimate that the present dataset of 4436 ESTs is derived from 2258 genes based on cluster and comparative genomic analyses of the ESTs. Of the 2258 representative ESTs, 1159 (51.3%) had homologues in the free-living nematode C. elegans, 1174 (51.9%) in parasitic nematodes, 827 (36.6%) in organisms other than nematodes, and 863 (38%) had no significant match to any sequence in the current databases. Of the C. elegans homologues, 569 had observed 'non-wildtype' RNAi phenotypes, including embryonic lethality, maternal sterility, sterility in progeny, larval arrest and slow growth. We could functionally classify 776 (35%) sequences using the Gene Ontologies (GO) and established pathway associations to 696 (31%) sequences in Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG). In addition, we predicted 85 secreted proteins which could represent potential candidates for developing novel anthelmintics or vaccines. CONCLUSION: The bioinformatic analyses of ESTs data for D. viviparus has elucidated sets of relatively conserved and potentially novel genes. The genes discovered in this study should assist research toward a better understanding of the basic molecular biology of D. viviparus, which could lead, in the longer term, to novel intervention strategies. The characterization of the D. viviparus transcriptome also provides a foundation for whole genome sequence analysis and future comparative transcriptomic analyses.