Melbourne Veterinary School - Research Publications

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    Dafachronic acid promotes larval development in Haemonchus contortus by modulating dauer signalling and lipid metabolism
    Ma, G ; Wang, T ; Korhonen, PK ; Young, ND ; Nie, S ; Ang, C-S ; Williamson, NA ; Reid, GE ; Gasser, RB ; Streit, A (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2019-07-01)
    Here, we discovered an endogenous dafachronic acid (DA) in the socioeconomically important parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus. We demonstrate that DA promotes larval exsheathment and development in this nematode via a relatively conserved nuclear hormone receptor (DAF-12). This stimulatory effect is dose- and time-dependent, and relates to a modulation of dauer-like signalling, and glycerolipid and glycerophospholipid metabolism, likely via a negative feedback loop. Specific chemical inhibition of DAF-9 (cytochrome P450) was shown to significantly reduce the amount of endogenous DA in H. contortus; compromise both larval exsheathment and development in vitro; and modulate lipid metabolism. Taken together, this evidence shows that DA plays a key functional role in the developmental transition from the free-living to the parasitic stage of H. contortus by modulating the dauer-like signalling pathway and lipid metabolism. Understanding the intricacies of the DA-DAF-12 system and associated networks in H. contortus and related parasitic nematodes could pave the way to new, nematode-specific treatments.
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    Selected alpha-pyrones from the plants Cryptocarya novoguineensis (Lauraceae) and Piper methysticum (Piperaceae) with activity against Haemonchus contortus in vitro
    Herath, HMPD ; Preston, S ; Jabbar, A ; Garcia-Bustos, J ; Addison, RS ; Hayes, S ; Rali, T ; Wang, T ; Koehler, A ; Chang, BCH ; Hofmann, A ; Davis, RA ; Gasser, RB (ELSEVIER SCI LTD, 2019-04-01)
    Due to the widespread occurrence and spread of anthelmintic resistance, there is a need to develop new drugs against resistant parasitic nematodes of livestock animals. The Nobel Prize-winning discovery and development of the anti-parasitic drugs avermectin and artemisinin has renewed the interest in exploring natural products as anthelmintics. In the present study, we screened 7500 plant extracts for in vitro-activity against the barber's pole worm, Haemonchus contortus, a highly significant pathogen of ruminants. The anthelmintic extracts from two plants, Cryptocarya novoguineensis and Piper methysticum, were fractionated by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Subsequently, compounds were purified from fractions with significant biological activity. Four α-pyrones, namely goniothalamin (GNT), dihydrokavain (DHK), desmethoxyyangonin (DMY) and yangonin (YGN), were purified from fractions from the two plants, GNT from C. novoguineensis, and DHK, DMY and YGN (= kavalactones) from P. methysticum. The three kavalactones induced a lethal, eviscerated (Evi) phenotype in treated exsheathed third-stage larvae (xL3s), and DMY and YGN had moderate potencies (IC50 values of 31.7 ± 0.23 μM and 23.7 ± 2.05 μM, respectively) at inhibiting the development of xL3s to fourth-stage larvae (L4s). Although GNT had limited potency (IC50 of 200-300 μM) at inhibiting L4 development, it was the only compound that reduced L4 motility (IC50 of 6.25-12.50 μM). The compounds purified from each plant affected H. contortus in an irreversible manner. These findings suggest that structure-activity relationship studies of α-pyrones should be pursued to assess their potential as anthelmintics.
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    Phenotypic screening of the "Kurz-box' of chemicals identifies two compounds (BLK127 and HBK4) with anthelmintic activity in vitro against parasitic larval stages of Haemonchus contortus
    Linh, TN ; Kurz, T ; Preston, S ; Brueckmann, H ; Lungerich, B ; Herath, HMPD ; Koehler, AV ; Wang, T ; Skalova, L ; Jabbar, A ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2019-04-30)
    BACKGROUND: Due to anthelmintic resistance problems, there is a need to discover and develop new drugs for the treatment and control of economically important and pathogenic nematodes of livestock animals. With this focus in mind, we screened 236 compounds from a library (called the 'Kurz-box') representing chemically diverse classes such as heterocyclic compounds (e.g. thiazoles, pyrroles, quinolines, pyrimidines, benzo[1,4]diazepines), hydoxamic acid-based metalloenzyme inhibitors, peptidomimetics (bis- and tris-pyrimidoneamides, alkoxyamides) and various intermediates on Haemonchus contortus, one of the most important parasitic nematodes of ruminants. METHODS: In the present study, we tested these compounds, and measured the inhibition of larval motility and development of exsheathed third-stage (xL3) and fourth-stage (L4) larvae of H. contortus using an optimised, whole-organism phenotypic screening assay. RESULTS: Of the 236 compounds, we identified two active compounds (called BLK127 and HBK4) that induced marked phenotypic changes in the worm in vitro. Compound BLK127 induced an 'eviscerated' phenotype in the xL3 stage and also inhibited L4 development. Compound HBK4 exerted a 'curved' phenotype in both xL3s and L4s. CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this study provide a basis for future work on the chemical optimisation of these compounds, on assessing the activity of optimised compounds on adult stages of H. contortus both in vitro and in vivo (in the host animal) and against other parasitic worms of veterinary and medical importance.
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    Dauer signalling pathway model for Haemonchus contortus
    Ma, G ; Wang, T ; Korhonen, PK ; Stroehlein, AJ ; Young, ND ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2019-04-29)
    BACKGROUND: Signalling pathways have been extensively investigated in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, but very little is known about these pathways in parasitic nematodes. Here, we constructed a model for the dauer-associated signalling pathways in an economically highly significant parasitic worm, Haemonchus contortus. METHODS: Guided by data and information available for C. elegans, we used extensive genomic and transcriptomic datasets to infer gene homologues in the dauer-associated pathways, explore developmental transcriptomic, proteomic and phosphoproteomic profiles in H. contortus and study selected molecular structures. RESULTS: The canonical cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and steroid hormone signalling pathways of H. contortus were inferred to represent a total of 61 gene homologues. Compared with C. elegans, H. contortus has a reduced set of genes encoding insulin-like peptides, implying evolutionary and biological divergences between the parasitic and free-living nematodes. Similar transcription profiles were found for all gene homologues between the infective stage of H. contortus and dauer stage of C. elegans. High transcriptional levels for genes encoding G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), TGF-β, insulin-like ligands (e.g. ins-1, ins-17 and ins-18) and transcriptional factors (e.g. daf-16) in the infective L3 stage of H. contortus were suggestive of critical functional roles in this stage. Conspicuous protein expression patterns and extensive phosphorylation of some components of these pathways suggested marked post-translational modifications also in the L3 stage. The high structural similarity in the DAF-12 ligand binding domain among nematodes indicated functional conservation in steroid (i.e. dafachronic acid) signalling linked to worm development. CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, this pathway model provides a basis to explore hypotheses regarding biological processes and regulatory mechanisms (via particular microRNAs, phosphorylation events and/or lipids) associated with the development of H. contortus and related nematodes as well as parasite-host cross talk, which could aid the discovery of new therapeutic targets.
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    Molecular investigation of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in pre- and post-weaned calves in Hubei Province, China
    Fan, Y ; Wang, T ; Koehler, AV ; Hu, M ; Gasser, RB (BIOMED CENTRAL LTD, 2017-10-25)
    BACKGROUND: The protistan pathogens Cryptosporidium and Giardia can cause significant intestinal diseases in animals and humans. Cattle, particularly calves, carrying these protists can be significant reservoirs for human infections and disease. However, little is known about the genetic make-up of Cryptosporidium and Giardia populations in cattle and other ruminants in some regions of China. RESULTS: In the present study, PCR-based tools were used to genetically characterise these protists in faecal samples from a total of 339 pre- and post-weaned calves from four distinct locations in Hubei Province using markers in the large (LSU) or small (SSU) subunits of nuclear ribosomal RNA genes. Cryptosporidium andersoni, C. bovis, C. ryanae and Giardia duodenalis assemblage E were detected in 0.6%, 10.9%, 4.1% and 22.6% of calves, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to report the prevalence of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in pre- and post-weaned calves in Hubei Province, and encourages large-scale molecular studies of animals and humans, in an effort to better understand the epidemiology of these enteric pathogens in China.
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    Use of a bioinformatic-assisted primer design strategy to establish a new nested PCR-based method for Cryptosporidium
    Koehler, AV ; Korhonen, PK ; Hall, RS ; Young, ND ; Wang, T ; Haydon, SR ; Gasser, RB (BMC, 2017-10-23)
    BACKGROUND: The accurate tracking of Cryptosporidium in faecal, water and/or soil samples in water catchment areas is central to developing strategies to manage the potential risk of cryptosporidiosis transmission to humans. Various PCR assays are used for this purpose. Although some assays achieve specific amplification from Cryptosporidium DNA in animal faecal samples, some do not. Indeed, we have observed non-specificity of some oligonucleotide primers in the small subunit of nuclear ribosomal RNA gene (SSU), which has presented an obstacle to the identification and classification of Cryptosporidium species and genotypes (taxa) from faecal samples. RESULTS: Using a novel bioinformatic approach, we explored all available Cryptosporidium genome sequences for new and diagnostically-informative, multi-copy regions to specifically design oligonucleotide primers in the large subunit of nuclear ribosomal RNA gene (LSU) as a basis for an effective nested PCR-based sequencing method for the identification and/or classification of Cryptosporidium taxa. CONCLUSION: This newly established PCR, which has high analytical specificity and sensitivity, is now in routine use in our laboratory, together with other assays developed by various colleagues. Although the present bioinformatic workflow used here was for the specific design of primers in nuclear DNA of Cryptosporidium, this approach should be broadly applicable to many other microorganisms.