Veterinary Biosciences - Research Publications

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    Meeting report: Application of genotyping methods to assess risks from cryptosporidium in watersheds
    Ferguson, C ; Deere, D ; Sinclair, M ; Chalmers, RM ; Elwin, K ; Hadfield, S ; Xiao, LH ; Ryan, U ; Gasser, R ; El-Osta, YA ; Stevens, M (US DEPT HEALTH HUMAN SCIENCES PUBLIC HEALTH SCIENCE, 2006-03-01)
    A workshop titled "Application of Genotyping Methods to Assess Pathogen Risks from Cryptosporidium in Drinking Water Catchments" was held at the International Water Association biennial conference, Marrakech, Morocco, 23 September 2004. The workshop presented and discussed the findings of an interlaboratory trial that compared methods for genotyping Cryptosporidium oocysts isolated from feces. The primary goal of the trial and workshop was to assess the utility of current Cryptosporidium genotyping methods for determining the public health significance of oocysts isolated from feces in potable-water-supply watersheds. An expert panel of 16 watershed managers, public health practitioners, and molecular parasitologists was assembled for the workshop. A subordinate goal of the workshop was to educate watershed management and public health practitioners. An open invitation was extended to all conference delegates to attend the workshop, which drew approximately 50 interested delegates. In this report we summarize the peer consensus emerging from the workshop. Recommendations on the use of current methods by watershed managers and public health practitioners were proposed. Importantly, all the methods that were reported in the trial were mutually supporting and found to be valuable and worthy of further utility and development. Where there were choices as to which method to apply, the small-subunit ribosomal RNA gene was considered to be the optimum genetic locus to target. The single-strand conformational polymorphism method was considered potentially the most valuable for discriminating to the subtype level and where a large number of samples were to be analyzed. A research agenda for protozoan geneticists was proposed to improve the utility of methods into the future. Standardization of methods and nomenclature was promoted.
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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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    Needles in the EST Haystack: Large-Scale Identification and Analysis of Excretory-Secretory (ES) Proteins in Parasitic Nematodes Using Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs)
    Nagaraj, SH ; Gasser, RB ; Ranganathan, S ; Cappello, M (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2008-09-01)
    BACKGROUND: Parasitic nematodes of humans, other animals and plants continue to impose a significant public health and economic burden worldwide, due to the diseases they cause. Promising antiparasitic drug and vaccine candidates have been discovered from excreted or secreted (ES) proteins released from the parasite and exposed to the immune system of the host. Mining the entire expressed sequence tag (EST) data available from parasitic nematodes represents an approach to discover such ES targets. METHODS AND FINDINGS: In this study, we predicted, using EST2Secretome, a novel, high-throughput, computational workflow system, 4,710 ES proteins from 452,134 ESTs derived from 39 different species of nematodes, parasitic in animals (including humans) or plants. In total, 2,632, 786, and 1,292 ES proteins were predicted for animal-, human-, and plant-parasitic nematodes. Subsequently, we systematically analysed ES proteins using computational methods. Of these 4,710 proteins, 2,490 (52.8%) had orthologues in Caenorhabditis elegans, whereas 621 (13.8%) appeared to be novel, currently having no significant match to any molecule available in public databases. Of the C. elegans homologues, 267 had strong "loss-of-function" phenotypes by RNA interference (RNAi) in this nematode. We could functionally classify 1,948 (41.3%) sequences using the Gene Ontology (GO) terms, establish pathway associations for 573 (12.2%) sequences using Kyoto Encyclopaedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG), and identify protein interaction partners for 1,774 (37.6%) molecules. We also mapped 758 (16.1%) proteins to protein domains including the nematode-specific protein family "transthyretin-like" and "chromadorea ALT," considered as vaccine candidates against filariasis in humans. CONCLUSIONS: We report the large-scale analysis of ES proteins inferred from EST data for a range of parasitic nematodes. This set of ES proteins provides an inventory of known and novel members of ES proteins as a foundation for studies focused on understanding the biology of parasitic nematodes and their interactions with their hosts, as well as for the development of novel drugs or vaccines for parasite intervention and control.
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    Systematic analysis of insertions and deletions specific to nematode proteins and their proposed functional and evolutionary relevance
    Wang, Z ; Martin, J ; Abubucker, S ; Yin, Y ; Gasser, RB ; Mitreva, M (BMC, 2009-01-28)
    BACKGROUND: Amino acid insertions and deletions in proteins are considered relatively rare events, and their associations with the evolution and adaptation of organisms are not yet understood. In this study, we undertook a systematic analysis of over 214,000 polypeptides from 32 nematode species and identified insertions and deletions unique to nematode proteins in more than 1000 families and provided indirect evidence that these alterations are linked to the evolution and adaptation of nematodes. RESULTS: Amino acid alterations in sequences of nematodes were identified by comparison with homologous sequences from a wide range of eukaryotic (metzoan) organisms. This comparison revealed that the proteins inferred from transcriptomic datasets for nematodes contained more deletions than insertions, and that the deletions tended to be larger in length than insertions, indicating a decreased size of the transcriptome of nematodes compared with other organisms. The present findings showed that this reduction is more pronounced in parasitic nematodes compared with the free-living nematodes of the genus Caenorhabditis. Consistent with a requirement for conservation in proteins involved in the processing of genetic information, fewer insertions and deletions were detected in such proteins. On the other hand, more insertions and deletions were recorded for proteins inferred to be involved in the endocrine and immune systems, suggesting a link with adaptation. Similarly, proteins involved in multiple cellular pathways tended to display more deletions and insertions than those involved in a single pathway. The number of insertions and deletions shared by a range of plant parasitic nematodes were higher for proteins involved in lipid metabolism and electron transport compared with other nematodes, suggesting an association between metabolic adaptation and parasitism in plant hosts. We also identified three sizable deletions from proteins found to be specific to and shared by parasitic nematodes, which, given their uniqueness, might serve as target candidates for drug design. CONCLUSION: This study illustrates the significance of using comparative genomics approaches to identify molecular elements unique to parasitic nematodes, which have adapted to a particular host organism and mode of existence during evolution. While the focus of this study was on nematodes, the approach has applicability to a wide range of other groups of organisms.
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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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    Transcriptional Changes in the Hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum, during the Transition from a Free-Living to a Parasitic Larva
    Datu, BJD ; Gasser, RB ; Nagaraj, SH ; Ong, EK ; O'Donoghue, P ; McInnes, R ; Ranganathan, S ; Loukas, A ; Dalton, J (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2008-01-01)
    BACKGROUND: Third-stage larvae (L3) of the canine hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum, undergo arrested development preceding transmission to a host. Many of the mRNAs up-regulated at this stage are likely to encode proteins that facilitate the transition from a free-living to a parasitic larva. The initial phase of mammalian host invasion by A. caninum L3 (herein termed "activation") can be mimicked in vitro by culturing L3 in serum-containing medium. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The mRNAs differentially transcribed between activated and non-activated L3 were identified by suppression subtractive hybridisation (SSH). The analysis of these mRNAs on a custom oligonucleotide microarray printed with the SSH expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and publicly available A. caninum ESTs (non-subtracted) yielded 602 differentially expressed mRNAs, of which the most highly represented sequences encoded members of the pathogenesis-related protein (PRP) superfamily and proteases. Comparison of these A. caninum mRNAs with those of Caenorhabditis elegans larvae exiting from developmental (dauer) arrest demonstrated unexpectedly large differences in gene ontology profiles. C. elegans dauer exiting L3 up-regulated expression of mostly intracellular molecules involved in growth and development. Such mRNAs are virtually absent from activated hookworm larvae, and instead are over-represented by mRNAs encoding extracellular proteins with putative roles in host-parasite interactions. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Although this should not invalidate C. elegans dauer exit as a model for hookworm activation, it highlights the limitations of this free-living nematode as a model organism for the transition of nematode larvae from a free-living to a parasitic state.
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    Genomic-Bioinformatic Analysis of Transcripts Enriched in the Third-Stage Larva of the Parasitic Nematode Ascaris suum
    Huang, C-Q ; Gasser, RB ; Cantacessi, C ; Nisbet, AJ ; Zhong, W ; Sternberg, PW ; Loukas, A ; Mulvenna, J ; Lin, R-Q ; Chen, N ; Zhu, X-Q ; Cappello, M (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2008-06-01)
    Differential transcription in Ascaris suum was investigated using a genomic-bioinformatic approach. A cDNA archive enriched for molecules in the infective third-stage larva (L3) of A. suum was constructed by suppressive-subtractive hybridization (SSH), and a subset of cDNAs from 3075 clones subjected to microarray analysis using cDNA probes derived from RNA from different developmental stages of A. suum. The cDNAs (n = 498) shown by microarray analysis to be enriched in the L3 were sequenced and subjected to bioinformatic analyses using a semi-automated pipeline (ESTExplorer). Using gene ontology (GO), 235 of these molecules were assigned to 'biological process' (n = 68), 'cellular component' (n = 50), or 'molecular function' (n = 117). Of the 91 clusters assembled, 56 molecules (61.5%) had homologues/orthologues in the free-living nematodes Caenorhabditis elegans and C. briggsae and/or other organisms, whereas 35 (38.5%) had no significant similarity to any sequences available in current gene databases. Transcripts encoding protein kinases, protein phosphatases (and their precursors), and enolases were abundantly represented in the L3 of A. suum, as were molecules involved in cellular processes, such as ubiquitination and proteasome function, gene transcription, protein-protein interactions, and function. In silico analyses inferred the C. elegans orthologues/homologues (n = 50) to be involved in apoptosis and insulin signaling (2%), ATP synthesis (2%), carbon metabolism (6%), fatty acid biosynthesis (2%), gap junction (2%), glucose metabolism (6%), or porphyrin metabolism (2%), although 34 (68%) of them could not be mapped to a specific metabolic pathway. Small numbers of these 50 molecules were predicted to be secreted (10%), anchored (2%), and/or transmembrane (12%) proteins. Functionally, 17 (34%) of them were predicted to be associated with (non-wild-type) RNAi phenotypes in C. elegans, the majority being embryonic lethality (Emb) (13 types; 58.8%), larval arrest (Lva) (23.5%) and larval lethality (Lvl) (47%). A genetic interaction network was predicted for these 17 C. elegans orthologues, revealing highly significant interactions for nine molecules associated with embryonic and larval development (66.9%), information storage and processing (5.1%), cellular processing and signaling (15.2%), metabolism (6.1%), and unknown function (6.7%). The potential roles of these molecules in development are discussed in relation to the known roles of their homologues/orthologues in C. elegans and some other nematodes. The results of the present study provide a basis for future functional genomic studies to elucidate molecular aspects governing larval developmental processes in A. suum and/or the transition to parasitism.
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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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    Gene discovery for the carcinogenic human liver fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini
    Laha, T ; Pinlaor, P ; Mulvenna, J ; Sripa, B ; Sripa, M ; Smout, MJ ; Gasser, RB ; Brindley, PJ ; Loukas, A (BMC, 2007-06-22)
    BACKGROUND: Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA)--cancer of the bile ducts--is associated with chronic infection with the liver fluke, Opisthorchis viverrini. Despite being the only eukaryote that is designated as a 'class I carcinogen' by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, little is known about its genome. RESULTS: Approximately 5,000 randomly selected cDNAs from the adult stage of O. viverrini were characterized and accounted for 1,932 contigs, representing ~14% of the entire transcriptome, and, presently, the largest sequence dataset for any species of liver fluke. Twenty percent of contigs were assigned GO classifications. Abundantly represented protein families included those involved in physiological functions that are essential to parasitism, such as anaerobic respiration, reproduction, detoxification, surface maintenance and feeding. GO assignments were well conserved in relation to other parasitic flukes, however, some categories were over-represented in O. viverrini, such as structural and motor proteins. An assessment of evolutionary relationships showed that O. viverrini was more similar to other parasitic (Clonorchis sinensis and Schistosoma japonicum) than to free-living (Schmidtea mediterranea) flatworms, and 105 sequences had close homologues in both parasitic species but not in S. mediterranea. A total of 164 O. viverrini contigs contained ORFs with signal sequences, many of which were platyhelminth-specific. Examples of convergent evolution between host and parasite secreted/membrane proteins were identified as were homologues of vaccine antigens from other helminths. Finally, ORFs representing secreted proteins with known roles in tumorigenesis were identified, and these might play roles in the pathogenesis of O. viverrini-induced CCA. CONCLUSION: This gene discovery effort for O. viverrini should expedite molecular studies of cholangiocarcinogenesis and accelerate research focused on developing new interventions, drugs and vaccines, to control O. viverrini and related flukes.