New chemotherapeutic agents against Schistosoma mansoni, an etiological agent of human schistosomiasis, are a priority due to the emerging drug resistance and the inability of current drug treatments to prevent reinfection. Proteases have been under scrutiny as targets of immunological or chemotherapeutic anti-Schistosoma agents because of their vital role in many stages of the parasitic life cycle. Function has been established for only a handful of identified S. mansoni proteases, and the vast majority of these are the digestive proteases; very few of the conserved classes of regulatory proteases have been identified from Schistosoma species, despite their vital role in numerous cellular processes. To that end, we identified protease protein coding genes from the S. mansoni genome project and EST library.
We identified 255 protease sequences from five catalytic classes using predicted proteins of the S. mansoni genome. The vast majority of these show significant similarity to proteins in KEGG and the Conserved Domain Database. Proteases include calpains, caspases, cytosolic and mitochondrial signal peptidases, proteases that interact with ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like molecules, and proteases that perform regulated intramembrane proteolysis. Comparative analysis of classes of important regulatory proteases find conserved active site domains, and where appropriate, signal peptides and transmembrane helices. Phylogenetic analysis provides support for inferring functional divergence among regulatory aspartic, cysteine, and serine proteases.
Numerous proteases are identified for the first time in S. mansoni. We characterized important regulatory proteases and focus analysis on these proteases to complement the growing knowledge base of digestive proteases. This work provides a foundation for expanding knowledge of proteases in Schistosoma species and examining their diverse function and potential as targets for new chemotherapies.