Veterinary Biosciences - Research Publications

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    Chromosome-level genome of Schistosoma haematobium underpins genome-wide explorations of molecular variation
    Stroehlein, AJ ; Korhonen, PK ; Lee, VV ; Ralph, SA ; Mentink-Kane, M ; You, H ; McManus, DP ; Tchuente, L-AT ; Stothard, JR ; Kaur, P ; Dudchenko, O ; Aiden, EL ; Yang, B ; Yang, H ; Emery, AM ; Webster, BL ; Brindley, PJ ; Rollinson, D ; Chang, BCH ; Gasser, RB ; Young, ND ; Zamanian, M (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2022-02-01)
    Urogenital schistosomiasis is caused by the blood fluke Schistosoma haematobium and is one of the most neglected tropical diseases worldwide, afflicting > 100 million people. It is characterised by granulomata, fibrosis and calcification in urogenital tissues, and can lead to increased susceptibility to HIV/AIDS and squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder. To complement available treatment programs and break the transmission of disease, sound knowledge and understanding of the biology and ecology of S. haematobium is required. Hybridisation/introgression events and molecular variation among members of the S. haematobium-group might effect important biological and/or disease traits as well as the morbidity of disease and the effectiveness of control programs including mass drug administration. Here we report the first chromosome-contiguous genome for a well-defined laboratory line of this blood fluke. An exploration of this genome using transcriptomic data for all key developmental stages allowed us to refine gene models (including non-coding elements) and annotations, discover 'new' genes and transcription profiles for these stages, likely linked to development and/or pathogenesis. Molecular variation within S. haematobium among some geographical locations in Africa revealed unique genomic 'signatures' that matched species other than S. haematobium, indicating the occurrence of introgression events. The present reference genome (designated Shae.V3) and the findings from this study solidly underpin future functional genomic and molecular investigations of S. haematobium and accelerate systematic, large-scale population genomics investigations, with a focus on improved and sustained control of urogenital schistosomiasis.
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    Mitochondrial genome of Bulinus truncatus (Gastropoda: Lymnaeoidea): Implications for snail systematics and schistosome epidemiology.
    Young, ND ; Kinkar, L ; Stroehlein, AJ ; Korhonen, PK ; Stothard, JR ; Rollinson, D ; Gasser, RB (Elsevier BV, 2021)
    Many freshwater snails of the genus Bulinus act as intermediate hosts in the life-cycles of schistosomes in Africa and adjacent regions. Currently, 37 species of Bulinus representing four groups are recognised. The mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) gene has shown utility for identifying and differentiating Bulinus species and groups, but taxonomic relationships based on genetic data are not entirely consistent with those inferred using morphological and biological features. To underpin future systematic studies of members of the genus, we characterised here the mitochondrial genome of Bulinus truncatus (from a defined laboratory strain) using a combined second- and third-generation sequencing and informatics approach, enabling taxonomic comparisons with other planorbid snails for which mitochondrial (mt) genomes were available. Analyses showed consistency in gene order and length among mitochondrial genomes of representative planorbid snails, with the lowest and highest nucleotide diversities being in the cytochrome c oxidase and nicotinamide dehydrogenase subunit genes, respectively. This first mt genome for a representative of the genus Bulinus should provide a useful resource for future investigations of the systematics, population genetics, epidemiology and/or ecology of Bulinus and related snails. The sequencing and informatic workflow employed here should find broad applicability to a range of other snail intermediate hosts of parasitic trematodes.
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    Nuclear genome of Bulinus truncatus, an intermediate host of the carcinogenic human blood fluke Schistosoma haematobium
    Young, ND ; Stroehlein, AJ ; Wang, T ; Korhonen, PK ; Mentink-Kane, M ; Stothard, JR ; Rollinson, D ; Gasser, RB (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2022-02-21)
    Some snails act as intermediate hosts (vectors) for parasitic flatworms (flukes) that cause neglected tropical diseases, such as schistosomiases. Schistosoma haematobium is a blood fluke that causes urogenital schistosomiasis and induces bladder cancer and increased risk of HIV infection. Understanding the molecular biology of the snail and its relationship with the parasite could guide development of an intervention approach that interrupts transmission. Here, we define the genome for a key intermediate host of S. haematobium-called Bulinus truncatus-and explore protein groups inferred to play an integral role in the snail's biology and its relationship with the schistosome parasite. Bu. truncatus shared many orthologous protein groups with Biomphalaria glabrata-the key snail vector for S. mansoni which causes hepatointestinal schistosomiasis in people. Conspicuous were expansions in signalling and membrane trafficking proteins, peptidases and their inhibitors as well as gene families linked to immune response regulation, such as a large repertoire of lectin-like molecules. This work provides a sound basis for further studies of snail-parasite interactions in the search for targets to block schistosomiasis transmission.
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    Nanopore Sequencing Resolves Elusive Long Tandem-Repeat Regions in Mitochondrial Genomes
    Kinkar, L ; Gasser, RB ; Webster, BL ; Rollinson, D ; Littlewood, DTJ ; Chang, BCH ; Stroehlein, AJ ; Korhonen, PK ; Young, ND (MDPI, 2021-02-01)
    Long non-coding, tandem-repetitive regions in mitochondrial (mt) genomes of many metazoans have been notoriously difficult to characterise accurately using conventional sequencing methods. Here, we show how the use of a third-generation (long-read) sequencing and informatic approach can overcome this problem. We employed Oxford Nanopore technology to sequence genomic DNAs from a pool of adult worms of the carcinogenic parasite, Schistosoma haematobium, and used an informatic workflow to define the complete mt non-coding region(s). Using long-read data of high coverage, we defined six dominant mt genomes of 33.4 kb to 22.6 kb. Although no variation was detected in the order or lengths of the protein-coding genes, there was marked length (18.5 kb to 7.6 kb) and structural variation in the non-coding region, raising questions about the evolution and function of what might be a control region that regulates mt transcription and/or replication. The discovery here of the largest tandem-repetitive, non-coding region (18.5 kb) in a metazoan organism also raises a question about the completeness of some of the mt genomes of animals reported to date, and stimulates further explorations using a Nanopore-informatic workflow.
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    The Haemonchus contortus kinome - a resource for fundamental molecular investigations and drug discovery
    Stroehlein, AJ ; Young, ND ; Korhonen, PK ; Jabbar, A ; Hofmann, A ; Sternberg, PW ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2015-12-08)
    BACKGROUND: Protein kinases regulate a plethora of essential signalling and other biological pathways in all eukaryotic organisms, but very little is known about them in most parasitic nematodes. METHODS: Here, we defined, for the first time, the entire complement of protein kinases (kinome) encoded in the barber's pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) through an integrated analysis of transcriptomic and genomic datasets using an advanced bioinformatic workflow. RESULTS: We identified, curated and classified 432 kinases representing ten groups, 103 distinct families and 98 subfamilies. A comparison of the kinomes of H. contortus and Caenorhabditis elegans (a related, free-living nematode) revealed considerable variation in the numbers of casein kinases, tyrosine kinases and Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinases, which likely relate to differences in biology, habitat and life cycle between these worms. Moreover, a suite of kinase genes was selectively transcribed in particular developmental stages of H. contortus, indicating central roles in developmental and reproductive processes. In addition, using a ranking system, drug targets (n = 13) and associated small-molecule effectors (n = 1517) were inferred. CONCLUSIONS: The H. contortus kinome will provide a useful resource for fundamental investigations of kinases and signalling pathways in this nematode, and should assist future anthelmintic discovery efforts; this is particularly important, given current drug resistance problems in parasitic nematodes.
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    The small RNA complement of adult Schistosoma haematobium
    Stroehlein, AJ ; Young, ND ; Korhonen, PK ; Hall, RS ; Jex, AR ; Webster, BL ; Rollinson, D ; Brindley, PJ ; Gasser, RB ; Blair, D (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2018-05-01)
    BACKGROUND: Blood flukes of the genus Schistosoma cause schistosomiasis-a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that affects more than 200 million people worldwide. Studies of schistosome genomes have improved our understanding of the molecular biology of flatworms, but most of them have focused largely on protein-coding genes. Small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) have been explored in selected schistosome species and are suggested to play essential roles in the post-transcriptional regulation of genes, and in modulating flatworm-host interactions. However, genome-wide small RNA data are currently lacking for key schistosomes including Schistosoma haematobium-the causative agent of urogenital schistosomiasis of humans. METHODOLOGY: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) and other sncRNAs of male and female adults of S. haematobium and small RNA transcription levels were explored by deep sequencing, genome mapping and detailed bioinformatic analyses. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In total, 89 transcribed miRNAs were identified in S. haematobium-a similar complement to those reported for the congeners S. mansoni and S. japonicum. Of these miRNAs, 34 were novel, with no homologs in other schistosomes. Most miRNAs (n = 64) exhibited sex-biased transcription, suggestive of roles in sexual differentiation, pairing of adult worms and reproductive processes. Of the sncRNAs that were not miRNAs, some related to the spliceosome (n = 21), biogenesis of other RNAs (n = 3) or ribozyme functions (n = 16), whereas most others (n = 3798) were novel ('orphans') with unknown functions. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides the first genome-wide sncRNA resource for S. haematobium, extending earlier studies of schistosomes. The present work should facilitate the future curation and experimental validation of sncRNA functions in schistosomes to enhance our understanding of post-transcriptional gene regulation and of the roles that sncRNAs play in schistosome reproduction, development and parasite-host cross-talk.
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    Comparative bioinformatic analysis suggests that specific dauer-like signalling pathway components regulate Toxocara canis development and migration in the mammalian host
    Ma, G ; Wang, T ; Korhonen, PK ; Nie, S ; Reid, GE ; Stroehlein, AJ ; Koehler, AV ; Chang, BCH ; Hofmann, A ; Young, ND ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2019-01-14)
    BACKGROUND: Toxocara canis is quite closely related to Ascaris suum but its biology is more complex, involving a phase of arrested development (diapause or hypobiosis) in tissues as well as transplacental and transmammary transmission routes. In the present study, we explored and compared dauer-like signalling pathways of T. canis and A. suum to infer which components in these pathways might associate with, or regulate, this added complexity in T. canis. METHODS: Guided by information for Caenorhabditis elegans, we bioinformatically inferred and compared components of dauer-like signalling pathways in T. canis and A. suum using genomic and transcriptomic data sets. In these two ascaridoids, we also explored endogenous dafachronic acids (DAs), which are known to be critical in regulating larval developmental processes in C. elegans and other nematodes, by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). RESULTS: Orthologues of C. elegans dauer signalling genes were identified in T. canis (n = 55) and A. suum (n = 51), inferring the presence of a dauer-like signalling pathway in both species. Comparisons showed clear differences between C. elegans and these ascaridoids as well as between T. canis and A. suum, particularly in the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and insulin-like signalling pathways. Specifically, in both A. suum and T. canis, there was a paucity of genes encoding SMAD transcription factor-related protein (daf-3, daf-5, daf-8 and daf-14) and insulin/insulin-like peptide (daf-28, ins-4, ins-6 and ins-7) homologues, suggesting an evolution and adaptation of the signalling pathway in these parasites. In T. canis, there were more orthologues coding for homologues of antagonist insulin-like peptides (Tc-ins-1 and Tc-ins-18), an insulin receptor substrate (Tc-ist-1) and a serine/threonine kinase (Tc-akt-1) than in A. suum, suggesting potentiated functional roles for these molecules in regulating larval diapause and reactivation. A relatively conserved machinery was proposed for DA synthesis in the two ascaridoids, and endogenous Δ4- and Δ7-DAs were detected in them by LC-MS analysis. Differential transcription analysis between T. canis and A. suum suggests that ins-17 and ins-18 homologues are specifically involved in regulating development and migration in T. canis larvae in host tissues. CONCLUSION: The findings of this study provide a basis for functional explorations of insulin-like peptides, signalling hormones (i.e. DAs) and related nuclear receptors, proposed to link to development and/or parasite-host interactions in T. canis. Elucidating the functional roles of these molecules might contribute to the discovery of novel anthelmintic targets in ascaridoids.
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    High-quality nuclear genome for Sarcoptes scabiei-A critical resource for a neglected parasite
    Korhonen, PK ; Gasser, RB ; Ma, G ; Wang, T ; Stroehlein, AJ ; Young, ND ; Ang, C-S ; Fernando, DD ; Lu, HC ; Taylor, S ; Reynolds, SL ; Mofiz, E ; Najaraj, SH ; Gowda, H ; Madugundu, A ; Renuse, S ; Holt, D ; Pandey, A ; Papenfuss, AT ; Fischer, K ; Ramos, AN (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2020-10-01)
    The parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei is an economically highly significant parasite of the skin of humans and animals worldwide. In humans, this mite causes a neglected tropical disease (NTD), called scabies. This disease results in major morbidity, disability, stigma and poverty globally and is often associated with secondary bacterial infections. Currently, anti-scabies treatments are not sufficiently effective, resistance to them is emerging and no vaccine is available. Here, we report the first high-quality genome and transcriptomic data for S. scabiei. The genome is 56.6 Mb in size, has a a repeat content of 10.6% and codes for 9,174 proteins. We explored key molecules involved in development, reproduction, host-parasite interactions, immunity and disease. The enhanced ‘omic data sets for S. scabiei represent comprehensive and critical resources for genetic, functional genomic, metabolomic, phylogenetic, ecological and/or epidemiological investigations, and will underpin the design and development of new treatments, vaccines and/or diagnostic tests.
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    High-quality Schistosoma haematobium genome achieved by single-molecule and long-range sequencing
    Stroehlein, AJ ; Korhonen, PK ; Chong, TM ; Lim, YL ; Chan, KG ; Webster, B ; Rollinson, D ; Brindley, PJ ; Gasser, RB ; Young, ND (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2019-09-01)
    BACKGROUND: Schistosoma haematobium causes urogenital schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease affecting >100 million people worldwide. Chronic infection with this parasitic trematode can lead to urogenital conditions including female genital schistosomiasis and bladder cancer. At the molecular level, little is known about this blood fluke and the pathogenesis of the disease that it causes. To support molecular studies of this carcinogenic worm, we reported a draft genome for S. haematobium in 2012. Although a useful resource, its utility has been somewhat limited by its fragmentation. FINDINGS: Here, we systematically enhanced the draft genome of S. haematobium using a single-molecule and long-range DNA-sequencing approach. We achieved a major improvement in the accuracy and contiguity of the genome assembly, making it superior or comparable to assemblies for other schistosome species. We transferred curated gene models to this assembly and, using enhanced gene annotation pipelines, inferred a gene set with as many or more complete gene models as those of other well-studied schistosomes. Using conserved, single-copy orthologs, we assessed the phylogenetic position of S. haematobium in relation to other parasitic flatworms for which draft genomes were available. CONCLUSIONS: We report a substantially enhanced genomic resource that represents a solid foundation for molecular research on S. haematobium and is poised to better underpin population and functional genomic investigations and to accelerate the search for new disease interventions.
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    First record of a tandem-repeat region within the mitochondrial genome ofClonorchis sinensisusing a long-read sequencing approach
    Kinkar, L ; Young, ND ; Sohn, W-M ; Stroehlein, AJ ; Korhonen, PK ; Gasser, RB ; Attwood, SW (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2020-08-01)
    BACKGROUND: Mitochondrial genomes provide useful genetic markers for systematic and population genetic studies of parasitic helminths. Although many such genome sequences have been published and deposited in public databases, there is evidence that some of them are incomplete relating to an inability of conventional techniques to reliably sequence non-coding (repetitive) regions. In the present study, we characterise the complete mitochondrial genome-including the long, non-coding region-of the carcinogenic Chinese liver fluke, Clonorchis sinensis, using long-read sequencing. METHODS: The mitochondrial genome was sequenced from total high molecular-weight genomic DNA isolated from a pool of 100 adult worms of C. sinensis using the MinION sequencing platform (Oxford Nanopore Technologies), and assembled and annotated using an informatic approach. RESULTS: From > 93,500 long-reads, we assembled a 18,304 bp-mitochondrial genome for C. sinensis. Within this genome we identified a novel non-coding region of 4,549 bp containing six tandem-repetitive units of 719-809 bp each. Given that genomic DNA from pooled worms was used for sequencing, some variability in length/sequence in this tandem-repetitive region was detectable, reflecting population variation. CONCLUSIONS: For C. sinensis, we report the complete mitochondrial genome, which includes a long (> 4.5 kb) tandem-repetitive region. The discovery of this non-coding region using a nanopore-sequencing/informatic approach now paves the way to investigating the nature and extent of length/sequence variation in this region within and among individual worms, both within and among C. sinensis populations, and to exploring whether this region has a functional role in the regulation of replication and transcription, akin to the mitochondrial control region in mammals. Although applied to C. sinensis, the technological approach established here should be broadly applicable to characterise complex tandem-repetitive or homo-polymeric regions in the mitochondrial genomes of a wide range of taxa.