Veterinary Biosciences - Research Publications

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    The genome and developmental transcriptome of the strongylid nematode Haemonchus contortus
    Schwarz, EM ; Korhonen, PK ; Campbell, BE ; Young, ND ; Jex, AR ; Jabbar, A ; Hall, RS ; Mondal, A ; Howe, AC ; Pell, J ; Hofmann, A ; Boag, PR ; Zhu, X-Q ; Gregory, TR ; Loukas, A ; Williams, BA ; Antoshechkin, I ; Brown, CT ; Sternberg, PW ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2013-01-01)
    BACKGROUND: The barber's pole worm, Haemonchus contortus, is one of the most economically important parasites of small ruminants worldwide. Although this parasite can be controlled using anthelmintic drugs, resistance against most drugs in common use has become a widespread problem. We provide a draft of the genome and the transcriptomes of all key developmental stages of H. contortus to support biological and biotechnological research areas of this and related parasites. RESULTS: The draft genome of H. contortus is 320 Mb in size and encodes 23,610 protein-coding genes. On a fundamental level, we elucidate transcriptional alterations taking place throughout the life cycle, characterize the parasite's gene silencing machinery, and explore molecules involved in development, reproduction, host-parasite interactions, immunity, and disease. The secretome of H. contortus is particularly rich in peptidases linked to blood-feeding activity and interactions with host tissues, and a diverse array of molecules is involved in complex immune responses. On an applied level, we predict drug targets and identify vaccine molecules. CONCLUSIONS: The draft genome and developmental transcriptome of H. contortus provide a major resource to the scientific community for a wide range of genomic, genetic, proteomic, metabolomic, evolutionary, biological, ecological, and epidemiological investigations, and a solid foundation for biotechnological outcomes, including new anthelmintics, vaccines and diagnostic tests. This first draft genome of any strongylid nematode paves the way for a rapid acceleration in our understanding of a wide range of socioeconomically important parasites of one of the largest nematode orders.
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    Molecular Changes in Opisthorchis viverrini (Southeast Asian Liver Fluke) during the Transition from the Juvenile to the Adult Stage
    Jex, AR ; Young, ND ; Sripa, J ; Hall, RS ; Scheerlinck, J-P ; Laha, T ; Sripa, B ; Gasser, RB ; Jones, MK (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-11-01)
    BACKGROUND: The Southeast Asian liver fluke (Opisthorchis viverrini) chronically infects and affects tens of millions of people in regions of Asia, leading to chronic illness and, importantly, inducing malignant cancer (= cholangiocarcinoma). In spite of this, little is known, at the molecular level, about the parasite itself, its interplay with its hosts or the mechanisms of disease and/or carcinogenesis. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here, we generated extensive RNA-Seq data (Illumina) representing adult and juvenile stages of O. viverrini, and combined these sequences with previously published transcriptomic data (454 technology) for this species, yielding a combined assembly of significantly increased quality and allowing quantitative assessment of transcription in the juvenile and adult stage. CONCLUSIONS: This enhanced assembly reveals that, despite the substantial biological similarities between the human liver flukes, O. viverinni and Clonorchis sinensis, there are previously unrecognized differences in major aspects of their molecular biology. Most notable are differences among the C13 and cathepsin L-like cysteine peptidases, which play key roles in tissue migration, immune evasion and feeding, and, thus, represent potential drug and/or vaccine targets. Furthermore, these data indicate that major lineages of cysteine peptidases of socioeconomically important trematodes have evolved through a process of gene loss rather than independent radiation, contrasting previous proposals.
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    The Transcriptome of Trichuris suis - First Molecular Insights into a Parasite with Curative Properties for Key Immune Diseases of Humans
    Cantacessi, C ; Young, ND ; Nejsum, P ; Jex, AR ; Campbell, BE ; Hall, RS ; Thamsborg, SM ; Scheerlinck, J-P ; Gasser, RB ; Hofmann, A (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-08-24)
    BACKGROUND: Iatrogenic infection of humans with Trichuris suis (a parasitic nematode of swine) is being evaluated or promoted as a biological, curative treatment of immune diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and ulcerative colitis, in humans. Although it is understood that short-term T. suis infection in people with such diseases usually induces a modified Th2-immune response, nothing is known about the molecules in the parasite that induce this response. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: As a first step toward filling the gaps in our knowledge of the molecular biology of T. suis, we characterised the transcriptome of the adult stage of this nematode employing next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic techniques. A total of ∼65,000,000 reads were generated and assembled into ∼20,000 contiguous sequences ( = contigs); ∼17,000 peptides were predicted and classified based on homology searches, protein motifs and gene ontology and biological pathway mapping. CONCLUSIONS: These analyses provided interesting insights into a number of molecular groups, particularly predicted excreted/secreted molecules (n = 1,288), likely to be involved in the parasite-host interactions, and also various molecules (n = 120) linked to chemokine, T-cell receptor and TGF-β signalling as well as leukocyte transendothelial migration and natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity, which are likely to be immuno-regulatory or -modulatory in the infected host. This information provides a conceptual framework within which to test the immunobiological basis for the curative effect of T. suis infection in humans against some immune diseases. Importantly, the T. suis transcriptome characterised herein provides a curated resource for detailed studies of the immuno-molecular biology of this parasite, and will underpin future genomic and proteomic explorations.
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    A Portrait of the Transcriptome of the Neglected Trematode, Fasciola gigantica-Biological and Biotechnological Implications
    Young, ND ; Jex, AR ; Cantacessi, C ; Hall, RS ; Campbell, BE ; Spithill, TW ; Tangkawattana, S ; Tangkawattana, P ; Laha, T ; Gasser, RB ; Ghedin, E (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-02-01)
    Fasciola gigantica (Digenea) is an important foodborne trematode that causes liver fluke disease (fascioliasis) in mammals, including ungulates and humans, mainly in tropical climatic zones of the world. Despite its socioeconomic impact, almost nothing is known about the molecular biology of this parasite, its interplay with its hosts, and the pathogenesis of fascioliasis. Modern genomic technologies now provide unique opportunities to rapidly tackle these exciting areas. The present study reports the first transcriptome representing the adult stage of F. gigantica (of bovid origin), defined using a massively parallel sequencing-coupled bioinformatic approach. From >20 million raw sequence reads, >30,000 contiguous sequences were assembled, of which most were novel. Relative levels of transcription were determined for individual molecules, which were also characterized (at the inferred amino acid level) based on homology, gene ontology, and/or pathway mapping. Comparisons of the transcriptome of F. gigantica with those of other trematodes, including F. hepatica, revealed similarities in transcription for molecules inferred to have key roles in parasite-host interactions. Overall, the present dataset should provide a solid foundation for future fundamental genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic explorations of F. gigantica, as well as a basis for applied outcomes such as the development of novel methods of intervention against this neglected parasite.
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    Massively Parallel Sequencing and Analysis of the Necator americanus Transcriptome
    Cantacessi, C ; Mitreva, M ; Jex, AR ; Young, ND ; Campbell, BE ; Hall, RS ; Doyle, MA ; Ralph, SA ; Rabelo, EM ; Ranganathan, S ; Sternberg, PW ; Loukas, A ; Gasser, RB ; Knight, M (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2010-05-01)
    BACKGROUND: The blood-feeding hookworm Necator americanus infects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In order to elucidate fundamental molecular biological aspects of this hookworm, the transcriptome of the adult stage of Necator americanus was explored using next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic analyses. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: A total of 19,997 contigs were assembled from the sequence data; 6,771 of these contigs had known orthologues in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and most of them encoded proteins with WD40 repeats (10.6%), proteinase inhibitors (7.8%) or calcium-binding EF-hand proteins (6.7%). Bioinformatic analyses inferred that the C. elegans homologues are involved mainly in biological pathways linked to ribosome biogenesis (70%), oxidative phosphorylation (63%) and/or proteases (60%); most of these molecules were predicted to be involved in more than one biological pathway. Comparative analyses of the transcriptomes of N. americanus and the canine hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum, revealed qualitative and quantitative differences. For instance, proteinase inhibitors were inferred to be highly represented in the former species, whereas SCP/Tpx-1/Ag5/PR-1/Sc7 proteins ( = SCP/TAPS or Ancylostoma-secreted proteins) were predominant in the latter. In N. americanus, essential molecules were predicted using a combination of orthology mapping and functional data available for C. elegans. Further analyses allowed the prioritization of 18 predicted drug targets which did not have homologues in the human host. These candidate targets were inferred to be linked to mitochondrial (e.g., processing proteins) or amino acid metabolism (e.g., asparagine t-RNA synthetase). CONCLUSIONS: This study has provided detailed insights into the transcriptome of the adult stage of N. americanus and examines similarities and differences between this species and A. caninum. Future efforts should focus on comparative transcriptomic and proteomic investigations of the other predominant human hookworm, A. duodenale, for both fundamental and applied purposes, including the prevalidation of anti-hookworm drug targets.
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    Unlocking the Transcriptomes of Two Carcinogenic Parasites, Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverrini
    Young, ND ; Campbell, BE ; Hall, RS ; Jex, AR ; Cantacessi, C ; Laha, T ; Sohn, W-M ; Sripa, B ; Loukas, A ; Brindley, PJ ; Gasser, RB ; Jones, MK (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2010-06-01)
    The two parasitic trematodes, Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverrini, have a major impact on the health of tens of millions of humans throughout Asia. The greatest impact is through the malignant cancer ( = cholangiocarcinoma) that these parasites induce in chronically infected people. Therefore, both C. sinensis and O. viverrini have been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Group 1 carcinogens. Despite their impact, little is known about these parasites and their interplay with the host at the molecular level. Recent advances in genomics and bioinformatics provide unique opportunities to gain improved insights into the biology of parasites as well as their relationships with their hosts at the molecular level. The present study elucidates the transcriptomes of C. sinensis and O. viverrini using a platform based on next-generation (high throughput) sequencing and advanced in silico analyses. From 500,000 sequences, >50,000 sequences were assembled for each species and categorized as biologically relevant based on homology searches, gene ontology and/or pathway mapping. The results of the present study could assist in defining molecules that are essential for the development, reproduction and survival of liver flukes and/or that are linked to the development of cholangiocarcinoma. This study also lays a foundation for future genomic and proteomic research of C. sinensis and O. viverrini and the cancers that they are known to induce, as well as novel intervention strategies.
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    Differences in transcription between free-living and CO2-activated third-stage larvae of Haemonchus contortus
    Cantacessi, C ; Campbell, BE ; Young, ND ; Jex, AR ; Hall, RS ; Presidente, PJA ; Zawadzki, JL ; Zhong, W ; Aleman-Meza, B ; Loukas, A ; Sternberg, PW ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2010-04-27)
    BACKGROUND: The disease caused by Haemonchus contortus, a blood-feeding nematode of small ruminants, is of major economic importance worldwide. The infective third-stage larva (L3) of this gastric nematode is enclosed in a cuticle (sheath) and, once ingested with herbage by the host, undergoes an exsheathment process that marks the transition from the free-living (L3) to the parasitic (xL3) stage. This study explored changes in gene transcription associated with this transition and predicted, based on comparative analysis, functional roles for key transcripts in the metabolic pathways linked to larval development. RESULTS: Totals of 101,305 (L3) and 105,553 (xL3) expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were determined using 454 sequencing technology, and then assembled and annotated; the most abundant transcripts encoded transthyretin-like, calcium-binding EF-hand, NAD(P)-binding and nucleotide-binding proteins as well as homologues of Ancylostoma-secreted proteins (ASPs). Using an in silico-subtractive analysis, 560 and 685 sequences were shown to be uniquely represented in the L3 and xL3 stages, respectively; the transcripts encoded ribosomal proteins, collagens and elongation factors (in L3), and mainly peptidases and other enzymes of amino acid catabolism (in xL3). Caenorhabditis elegans orthologues of transcripts that were uniquely transcribed in each L3 and xL3 were predicted to interact with a total of 535 other genes, all of which were involved in embryonic development. CONCLUSION: The present study indicated that some key transcriptional alterations taking place during the transition from the L3 to the xL3 stage of H. contortus involve genes predicted to be linked to the development of neuronal tissue (L3 and xL3), formation of the cuticle (L3) and digestion of host haemoglobin (xL3). Future efforts using next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic technologies should provide the efficiency and depth of coverage required for the determination of the complete transcriptomes of different developmental stages and/or tissues of H. contortus as well as the genome of this important parasitic nematode. Such advances should lead to a significantly improved understanding of the molecular biology of H. contortus and, from an applied perspective, to novel methods of intervention.
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    The Opisthorchis viverrini genome provides insights into life in the bile duct
    Young, ND ; Nagarajan, N ; Lin, SJ ; Korhonen, PK ; Jex, AR ; Hall, RS ; Safavi-Hemami, H ; Kaewkong, W ; Bertrand, D ; Gao, S ; Seet, Q ; Wongkham, S ; Teh, BT ; Wongkham, C ; Intapan, PM ; Maleewong, W ; Yang, X ; Hu, M ; Wang, Z ; Hofmann, A ; Sternberg, PW ; Tan, P ; Wang, J ; Gasser, RB (NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2014-07-01)
    Opisthorchiasis is a neglected, tropical disease caused by the carcinogenic Asian liver fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini. This hepatobiliary disease is linked to malignant cancer (cholangiocarcinoma, CCA) and affects millions of people in Asia. No vaccine is available, and only one drug (praziquantel) is used against the parasite. Little is known about O. viverrini biology and the diseases that it causes. Here we characterize the draft genome (634.5 Mb) and transcriptomes of O. viverrini, elucidate how this fluke survives in the hostile environment within the bile duct and show that metabolic pathways in the parasite are highly adapted to a lipid-rich diet from bile and/or cholangiocytes. We also provide additional evidence that O. viverrini and other flukes secrete proteins that directly modulate host cell proliferation. Our molecular resources now underpin profound explorations of opisthorchiasis/CCA and the design of new interventions.
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    Transcriptional analysis identifies key genes involved in metabolism, fibrosis/tissue repair and the immune response against Fasciola hepatica in sheep liver
    Alvarez Rojas, CA ; Ansell, BRE ; Hall, RS ; Gasser, RB ; Young, ND ; Jex, AR ; Scheerlinck, J-PY (BMC, 2015-02-25)
    BACKGROUND: Although fascioliasis has been relatively well studied, little is known about the molecular basis of this disease. This is particularly relevant, considering the very different response that sheep have to Fasciola hepatica relative to cattle. The acute phase of this disease is severe in sheep, whereas chronic fascioliasis is more common in cattle. METHODS: To begin to explore the host-response to Fasciola in sheep and improve the understanding of the host-pathogen interactions during the parasite's migration through liver parenchyma to the bile duct, we used RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to investigate livers from sheep infected for eight weeks compared with those from uninfected controls. RESULTS: This study identified 572 and 42 genes that were up- and down-regulated, respectively, in infected livers relative to uninfected controls. Our molecular findings provide significant new insights into the mechanisms linked to metabolism, fibrosis and tissue-repair in sheep, and highlight the relative importance of specific components of immune response pathways, which appear to be driven toward a suppression of inflammation. CONCLUSIONS: This study is, to our knowledge, the first detailed investigation of the transcriptomic responses in the liver tissue of any host to F. hepatica infection. It defines the involvement of specific genes associated with the host's metabolism, immune response and tissue repair/regeneration, and highlights an apparent overlapping function of many genes involved in these processes.
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    Genetic blueprint of the zoonotic pathogen Toxocara canis
    Zhu, X-Q ; Korhonen, PK ; Cai, H ; Young, ND ; Nejsum, P ; von Samson-Himmelstjerna, G ; Boag, PR ; Tan, P ; Li, Q ; Min, J ; Yang, Y ; Wang, X ; Fang, X ; Hall, RS ; Hofmann, A ; Sternberg, PW ; Jex, AR ; Gasser, RB (NATURE RESEARCH, 2015-02-01)
    Toxocara canis is a zoonotic parasite of major socioeconomic importance worldwide. In humans, this nematode causes disease (toxocariasis) mainly in the under-privileged communities in developed and developing countries. Although relatively well studied from clinical and epidemiological perspectives, to date, there has been no global investigation of the molecular biology of this parasite. Here we use next-generation sequencing to produce a draft genome and transcriptome of T. canis to support future biological and biotechnological investigations. This genome is 317 Mb in size, has a repeat content of 13.5% and encodes at least 18,596 protein-coding genes. We study transcription in a larval, as well as adult female and male stages, characterize the parasite's gene-silencing machinery, explore molecules involved in development or host-parasite interactions and predict intervention targets. The draft genome of T. canis should provide a useful resource for future molecular studies of this and other, related parasites.