Veterinary Biosciences - Research Publications

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    Ancylostoma ceylanicum Hookworms in Dogs, Grenada, West Indies.
    Zendejas-Heredia, PA ; Colella, V ; Macpherson, MLA ; Sylvester, W ; Gasser, RB ; Macpherson, CNL ; Traub, RJ (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2022-09)
    Ancylostoma ceylanicum hookworms are recognized agents of human infection in the Asia-Pacific region. We investigated prevalence of zoonotic hookworm infections in dogs in Grenada in 2021; 40.8% were infected by hookworms, including Ancylostoma ceylanicum. Surveillance of this parasite in dogs and humans is needed in tropical/subtropical countries in the Americas.
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    Repurposing of a human antibody-based microarray to explore conserved components of the signalome of the parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus.
    Adderley, J ; Wang, T ; Ma, G ; Zheng, Y ; Young, ND ; Doerig, C ; Gasser, RB (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2022-07-30)
    BACKGROUND: Gaining insight into molecular signalling pathways of socioeconomically important parasitic nematodes has implications for understanding their molecular biology and for developing novel anthelmintic interventions. METHODS: Here, we evaluated the use of a human antibody-based microarray to explore conserved elements of the signalome in the barber's pole worm Haemonchus contortus. To do this, we prepared extracts from mixed-sex (female and male) adult worms and third-stage larvae (L3s), incubated these extracts on the antibody microarray and then measured the amounts of antibody-bound proteins ('signal intensity'). RESULTS: In total, 878 signals were classified into two distinct categories: signals that were higher for adults than for larvae of H. contortus (n = 376), and signals that were higher for larvae than for adults of this species (n = 502). Following a data-filtering step, high confidence ('specific') signals were obtained for subsequent analyses. In total, 39 pan-specific signals (linked to antibodies that recognise target proteins irrespective of their phosphorylation status) and 65 phosphorylation-specific signals were higher in the adult stage, and 82 pan-specific signals and 183 phosphorylation-specific signals were higher in L3s. Thus, notably more signals were higher in L3s than in the adult worms. Using publicly available information, we then inferred H. contortus proteins that were detected (with high confidence) by specific antibodies directed against human homologues, and revealed relatively high structural conservation between the two species, with some variability for select proteins. We also in silico-matched 763 compound structures (listed in the DrugBank and Kinase SARfari public databases) to four H. contortus proteins (designated HCON_00005760, HCON_00079680, HCON_00013590 and HCON_00105100). CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that the present antibody-based microarray provides a useful tool for comparative analyses of signalling pathways between/among developmental stages and/or species, as well as opportunities to explore nematocidal target candidates in H. contortus and related parasites.
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    Evolution of sexual systems, sex chromosomes and sex-linked gene transcription in flatworms and roundworms
    Wang, Y ; Gasser, RB ; Charlesworth, D ; Zhou, Q (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2022-06-10)
    Many species with separate male and female individuals (termed 'gonochorism' in animals) have sex-linked genome regions. Here, we investigate evolutionary changes when genome regions become completely sex-linked, by analyses of multiple species of flatworms (Platyhelminthes; among which schistosomes recently evolved gonochorism from ancestral hermaphroditism), and roundworms (Nematoda) which have undergone independent translocations of different autosomes. Although neither the evolution of gonochorism nor translocations fusing ancestrally autosomal regions to sex chromosomes causes inevitable loss of recombination, we document that formerly recombining regions show genomic signatures of recombination suppression in both taxa, and become strongly genetically degenerated, with a loss of most genes. Comparisons with hermaphroditic flatworm transcriptomes show masculinisation and some defeminisation in schistosome gonad gene expression. We also find evidence that evolution of sex-linkage in nematodes is accompanied by transcriptional changes and dosage compensation. Our analyses also identify sex-linked genes that could assist future research aimed at controlling some of these important parasites.
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    iFeatureOmega: an integrative platform for engineering, visualization and analysis of features from molecular sequences, structural and ligand data sets
    Chen, Z ; Liu, X ; Zhao, P ; Li, C ; Wang, Y ; Li, F ; Akutsu, T ; Bain, C ; Gasser, RB ; Li, J ; Yang, Z ; Gao, X ; Kurgan, L ; Song, J (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2022-05-07)
    The rapid accumulation of molecular data motivates development of innovative approaches to computationally characterize sequences, structures and functions of biological and chemical molecules in an efficient, accessible and accurate manner. Notwithstanding several computational tools that characterize protein or nucleic acids data, there are no one-stop computational toolkits that comprehensively characterize a wide range of biomolecules. We address this vital need by developing a holistic platform that generates features from sequence and structural data for a diverse collection of molecule types. Our freely available and easy-to-use iFeatureOmega platform generates, analyzes and visualizes 189 representations for biological sequences, structures and ligands. To the best of our knowledge, iFeatureOmega provides the largest scope when directly compared to the current solutions, in terms of the number of feature extraction and analysis approaches and coverage of different molecules. We release three versions of iFeatureOmega including a webserver, command line interface and graphical interface to satisfy needs of experienced bioinformaticians and less computer-savvy biologists and biochemists. With the assistance of iFeatureOmega, users can encode their molecular data into representations that facilitate construction of predictive models and analytical studies. We highlight benefits of iFeatureOmega based on three research applications, demonstrating how it can be used to accelerate and streamline research in bioinformatics, computational biology, and cheminformatics areas. The iFeatureOmega webserver is freely available at http://ifeatureomega.erc.monash.edu and the standalone versions can be downloaded from https://github.com/Superzchen/iFeatureOmega-GUI/ and https://github.com/Superzchen/iFeatureOmega-CLI/.
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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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    Phytochemical Profiling and Biological Testing of the Constituents of the Australian Plant Haemodorum brevisepalum
    Norman, EO ; Hombsch, S ; Lever, J ; Brkljaca, R ; White, J ; Gasser, RB ; Taki, AC ; Urban, S (AMER CHEMICAL SOC, 2021-11-15)
    Phytochemical profiling was undertaken on the crude extracts of the bulbs, stems, and the fruits of Haemodorum brevisepalum, to determine the nature of the chemical constituents present. This represents the first study to investigate the fruits of a species of Haemodorum. In total, 13 new and 17 previously reported compounds were isolated and identified. The new compounds were of the phenylphenalenone-type class, with a representative of a novel structural form, named tentatively "oxabenzochromenone" (1), a compound akin to an intermediate in a recently proposed phenylphenalenone metabolic network (2), seven new phenylphenalenones (4-10), four new phenylbenzoisochromenones (11-14), and a new phenylbenzoisochromenone derivative (18). The previously reported compounds identified were of the following structure classes: oxabenzochrysenone (3, 23-26), flavonol (15, 16), phenylbenzoisochromenone (17, 21, 22, 27-30), and phenylphenalenone (19, 20). Compounds 2-4, 6-9, 15-18, 21, 22, and 26 were subjected to antimicrobial evaluation with moderate activity observed against Staphylococcus aureus MRSA and slight activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Candida albicans. Compounds 4, 6-9, 17, and 21 were also evaluated for anthelminthic activity against larvae of the blood-feeding parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus.
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    Phytochemical Profiling and Biological Activity of the Australian Carnivorous Plant, Drosera magna
    Norman, EO ; Tuohey, H ; Pizzi, D ; Saidah, M ; Bell, R ; Brkljaca, R ; White, JM ; Gasser, RB ; Taki, AC ; Urban, S (AMER CHEMICAL SOC, 2021-02-25)
    Phytochemical profiling was undertaken on the crude extracts of Drosera magna to determine the nature of the chemical constituents present. In total, three new flavonol diglycosides (1-3), one new flavan-3-ol glycoside (4), and 12 previously reported compounds of the flavonol (5, 9), flavan-3-ol (15), flavanone (8), 1,4-napthoquinone (6, 7, 13, 14), 2,3-dehydroxynapthalene-1,4-dione (10-12), and phenolic acid (16) structure classes were isolated and identified. Compounds 1-9, 13, 17, and 18 were assessed for antimicrobial activity, with compounds 6, 7, 8, and 9 showing significant activity. Compounds 1, 2, and 6 were also evaluated for anthelmintic activity against larval forms of Hemonchus contortus, with compound 6 being active.
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    "Escalibur"-A practical pipeline for the de novo analysis of nucleotide variation in nonmodel eukaryotes
    Korhonen, PK ; Shaban, B ; Faux, NG ; Kinkar, L ; Chang, BCH ; Wang, D ; Yang, B ; Young, ND ; Gasser, RB (WILEY, 2022-03-02)
    The revolution in genomics has enabled large-scale population genetic investigations of a wide range of organisms, but there has been a relatively limited focus on improving analytical pipelines. To efficiently analyse large data sets, highly integrated and automated software pipelines, which are easy to use, efficient, reliable, reproducible and run in multiple computational environments, are required. A number of software workflows have been developed to handle and process such data sets for population genetic analyses, but effective, specialized pipelines for genetic and statistical analyses of nonmodel organisms are lacking. For most species, resources for variomes (sets of genetic variations found in populations of species) are not available, and/or genome assemblies are often incomplete and fragmented, complicating the selection of the most suitable reference genome when multiple assemblies are available. Additionally, the biological samples used often contain extraneous DNA from sources other than the species under investigation (e.g., microbial contamination), which needs to be removed prior to genetic analyses. For these reasons, we established a new pipeline, called Escalibur, which includes: functionalities, such as data trimming and mapping; selection of a suitable reference genome; removal of contaminating read data; recalibration of base calls; and variant-calling. Escalibur uses a proven gatk variant caller and workflow description language (WDL), and is, therefore, a highly efficient and scalable pipeline for the genome-wide identification of nucleotide variation in eukaryotes. This pipeline is available at https://gitlab.unimelb.edu.au/bioscience/escalibur (version 0.3-beta) and is essentially applicable to any prokaryote or eukaryote.
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    Assessing the Anthelmintic Candidates BLK127 and HBK4 for Their Efficacy on Haemonchus contortus Adults and Eggs, and Their Hepatotoxicity and Biotransformation
    Zajickova, M ; Prchal, L ; Vokral, I ; Nguyen, LT ; Kurz, T ; Gasser, R ; Bednarova, K ; Micundova, M ; Lungerich, B ; Michel, O ; Skalova, L (MDPI, 2022-04-01)
    As a widely distributed parasitic nematode of ruminants, Haemonchus contortus has become resistant to most anthelmintic classes, there has been a major demand for new compounds against H. contortus and related nematodes. Recent phenotypic screening has revealed two compounds, designated as BLK127 and HBK4, that are active against H. contortus larvae. The present study was designed to assess the activity of these compounds against H. contortus eggs and adults, hepatotoxicity in rats and sheep, as well as biotransformation in H. contortus adults and the ovine liver. Both compounds exhibited no inhibitory effect on the hatching of eggs. The benzyloxy amide BLK127 significantly decreased the viability of adults in sensitive and resistant strains of H. contortus and showed no hepatotoxic effect, even at the highest concentration tested (100 µM). In contrast, HBK4 had no impact on the viability of H. contortus adults and exhibited significant hepatotoxicity. Based on these findings, HBK4 was excluded from further studies, while BLK127 seems to be a potential candidate for a new anthelmintic. Consequently, biotransformation of BLK127 was tested in H. contortus adults and the ovine liver. In H. contortus, several metabolites formed via hydroxylation, hydrolysis and glycosidation were identified, but the extent of biotransformation was low, and the total quantity of the metabolites formed did not differ significantly between the sensitive and resistant strains. In contrast, ovine liver cells metabolized BLK127 more extensively with a glycine conjugate of 4-(pentyloxy)benzoic acid as the main BLK127 metabolite.
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    Worms and bugs of the gut: the search for diagnostic signatures using barcoding, and metagenomics-metabolomics
    Papaiakovou, M ; Littlewood, DTJ ; Doyle, SR ; Gasser, RB ; Cantacessi, C (BMC, 2022-04-01)
    Gastrointestinal (GI) helminth infections cause significant morbidity in both humans and animals worldwide. Specific and sensitive diagnosis is central to the surveillance of such infections and to determine the effectiveness of treatment strategies used to control them. In this article, we: (i) assess the strengths and limitations of existing methods applied to the diagnosis of GI helminth infections of humans and livestock; (ii) examine high-throughput sequencing approaches, such as targeted molecular barcoding and shotgun sequencing, as tools to define the taxonomic composition of helminth infections; and (iii) discuss the current understanding of the interactions between helminths and microbiota in the host gut. Stool-based diagnostics are likely to serve as an important tool well into the future; improved diagnostics of helminths and their environment in the gut may assist the identification of biomarkers with the potential to define the health/disease status of individuals and populations, and to identify existing or emerging anthelmintic resistance.