Functional studies will facilitate characterization of role and essentiality of newly available genome sequences of the human schistosomes, Schistosoma mansoni, S. japonicum and S. haematobium. To develop transgenesis as a functional approach for these pathogens, we previously demonstrated that pseudotyped murine leukemia virus (MLV) can transduce schistosomes leading to chromosomal integration of reporter transgenes and short hairpin RNA cassettes. Here we investigated vertical transmission of transgenes through the developmental cycle of S. mansoni after introducing transgenes into eggs. Although MLV infection of schistosome eggs from mouse livers was efficient in terms of snail infectivity, >10-fold higher transgene copy numbers were detected in cercariae derived from in vitro laid eggs (IVLE). After infecting snails with miracidia from eggs transduced by MLV, sequencing of genomic DNA from cercariae released from the snails also revealed the presence of transgenes, demonstrating that transgenes had been transmitted through the asexual developmental cycle, and thereby confirming germline transgenesis. High-throughput sequencing of genomic DNA from schistosome populations exposed to MLV mapped widespread and random insertion of transgenes throughout the genome, along each of the autosomes and sex chromosomes, validating the utility of this approach for insertional mutagenesis. In addition, the germline-transmitted transgene encoding neomycin phosphotransferase rescued cultured schistosomules from toxicity of the antibiotic G418, and PCR analysis of eggs resulting from sexual reproduction of the transgenic worms in mice confirmed that retroviral transgenes were transmitted to the next (F1) generation. These findings provide the first description of wide-scale, random insertional mutagenesis of chromosomes and of germline transmission of a transgene in schistosomes. Transgenic lines of schistosomes expressing antibiotic resistance could advance functional genomics for these significant human pathogens.
Sequence data from this study have been submitted to the European Nucleotide Archive (http://www.ebi.ac.uk/embl) under accession number ERP000379.
Schistosomes, or blood flukes, are responsible for the major neglected tropical disease called schistosomiasis, which afflicts over 200 million people in impoverished regions of the developing world. The genome sequence of these parasites has been decoded. Integration sites of retroviral transgenes into the chromosomes of schistosomes were investigated by high-throughput sequencing. Transgene integrations were mapped to the genome sequence of Schistosoma mansoni. Integrations were distributed apparently randomly across each of the eight chromosomes, including the seven autosomes and the sex chromosomes Z and W. Integration events of transgenes were characterized in chromosomes of cercariae that were progeny of schistosome eggs infected with pseudotyped virions. Also, transgenic cercariae were employed to infect mice and transgenes were detected in the F1 eggs. Together these findings confirmed vertical transmission of transgenes through the schistosome germline, through both the asexual and the sexual reproductive phases of the developmental cycle. Moreover, germline-transmitted retroviral transgenes encoding drug resistance to the aminoglycoside antibiotics allowed schistosomes to survive toxic concentrations of the antibiotic G418. These findings represent the first reports of wide-scale insertional mutagenesis of schistosome chromosomes and vertical transmission of a transgene through the schistosome germline.