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1.  Variation in spatial and temporal incidence of the crustacean pathogen Hematodinium perezi in environmental samples from Atlantic Coastal Bays 
Aquatic Biosystems  2013;9:11.
Hematodinium perezi, a parasitic dinoflagellate, infects and kills blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. The parasite proliferates within host hemolymph and tissues, and also produces free-swimming biflagellated dinospores that emerge from infected crabs. Infections in C. sapidus recur annually, and it is not known if biotic or environmental reservoirs contribute to reinfection and outbreaks. To address this data gap, a quantitative PCR assay based on the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region of H. perezi rRNA genes was developed to asses the temporal and spatial incidence of the parasite in Delaware and Maryland coastal bays.
A previously-used PCR assay for H. perezi, based on the small subunit rRNA gene sequence, was found to lack adequate species specificity to discriminate non-Hematodinium sp. dinoflagellate species in environmental samples. A new ITS2-targeted assay was developed and validated to detect H. perezi DNA in sediment and water samples using E. coli carrying the H. perezi rDNA genes. Application of the method to environmental samples identified potential hotspots in sediment in Indian River Inlet, DE and Chincoteague Bay, MD and VA. H. perezi DNA was not detected in co-occurring shrimp or snails, even during an outbreak of the parasite in C. sapidus.
H. perezi is present in water and sediment samples in Maryland and Delaware coastal bays from April through November with a wide spatial and temporal variability in incidence. Sampling sites with high levels of H. perezi DNA in both bays share characteristics of silty, organic sediments and low tidal currents. The environmental detection of H. perezi in spring, ahead of peak prevalence in crabs, points to gaps in our understanding of the parasite’s life history prior to infection in crabs as well as the mode of environmental transmission. To better understand the H. perezi life cycle will require further monitoring of the parasite in habitats as well as hosts. Improved understanding of potential environmental transmission to crabs will facilitate the development of disease forecasting.
PMCID: PMC3651331  PMID: 23641869
Blue crab; Hematodinium; Parasite; Disease reservoir; Fishery
2.  Temporal distribution of genetically homogenous ‘free-living’ Hematodinium sp. in a Delmarva coastal ecosystem 
Aquatic Biosystems  2012;8:16.
Significant damage to crustacean fisheries worldwide has been associated with Hematodinium sp. It has been postulated that Hematodinium sp. requires passage through the water column and/or intermediate hosts to complete its life cycle. Thus, an understanding of the prevalence and seasonality of Hematodinium sp. within environmentally-derived samples should yield insight into potential modes of disease transmission, and how these relate to infection cycles in hosts.
We conducted a two year survey, from 2010–2011, in which 48 of 546 (8.8%) of environmental samples from the Maryland and Virginia coastal bays were positive for Hematodinium sp. between April and November, as based upon endpoint PCR analysis specific to blue crab isolates. Detection in both water and sediment was roughly equivalent, and there were no obvious seasonal patterns. However, there was a high detection in April water samples, which was unanticipated owing to the fact that crabs infected with Hematodinium sp. have not been observed in this early month of the seasonal disease cycle. Focusing on three sites of high prevalence (Sinnickson, VA; Tom’s Cove, VA; and Newport Bay, MD) Hematodinium sp. population diversity was analyzed using standard cloning methods. Of 131 clones, 109 (83.2%) were identical, 19 displayed a single nucleotide substitution, and 4 contain two nucleotide substitutions.
Our data suggests a continuous presence of Hematodinium sp. in both water and sediment of a combined Maryland and Virginia coastal bay ecosystem. The detection of Hematodinium sp. in the water column in April is an earlier manifestation of the parasite than predicted, pointing to an as yet unknown stage in its development prior to infection. That the population is relatively homogenous ranging from April to November, at three distinct sites, supports a hypothesis that one species of Hematodinium is responsible for infections within the ecosystem.
PMCID: PMC3413547  PMID: 22828185
Hematodinium; Life cycle; Environment; Population
3.  New Host Range for Hematodinium in Southern Australia and Novel Tools for Sensitive Detection of Parasitic Dinoflagellates 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82774.
Hematodinium is a parasitic dinoflagellate and emerging pathogen of crustaceans. It preferably manifests in haemolymph of marine decapod crustaceans, killing a large variety of genera with significant impacts on fisheries worldwide. There is, however, evidence that some crustacean stocks harbor high prevalence, low intensity infections that may not result in widespread host mortality and are therefore hard to detect. The most widely used methods for detection of Hematodinium are conventional blood smears and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) against ribosomal RNAs. Blood smears demand a trained investigator, are labor intensive and not readily scalable for high-throughput sampling. PCRs only detect parasite DNA and can also suffer from false negatives and positives. In order to develop alternative detection tools for Hematodinium cells in decapod crustaceans we employed an immunological approach against a newly identified, abundant dinoflagellate-specific nuclear protein—Dinoflagellate/Viral NucleoProtein (DVNP). Both immunofluorescence assay (IFA) and Western blot methods against DVNP showed high sensitivity of detection. The Western blot detects Hematodinium parasites to levels of 25 parasites per milliliter of crustacean haemolymph, with the potential for sample pooling and screening of large samples. Using both PCR and these new tools, we have identified Hematodinium cells present in three new host crab taxa, at high prevalence but with no sign of pathogenesis. This extends the known range of Hematodinium to southern Australia.
PMCID: PMC3855790  PMID: 24324829
4.  Characterization and Molecular Epidemiology of a Fungal Infection of Edible Crabs (Cancer pagurus) and Interaction of the Fungus with the Dinoflagellate Parasite Hematodinium 
This study reports on an emerging fungal disease of the edible crab, Cancer pagurus. Juvenile (prerecruit) crabs were found to be subject to this disease condition during the months of May to September at two intertidal sites in South Wales, United Kingdom. Histopathology revealed that the fungi overwhelm the host response in the tissues, leading to progressive septicemia. The causative agent of this infection was isolated and grown in pure culture and was identified as a member of the Ophiocordyceps clade by sequencing of the small subunit of the fungal ribosomal DNA (rDNA). Of the crabs naturally infected with the fungus, 94% had a coinfection with the parasitic dinoflagellate Hematodinium species. To determine if there was any interaction between the two disease-causing agents, apparently fungus-free crabs, both with and without natural Hematodinium infections, were challenged with the fungal isolate. The presence of Hematodinium caused a significant reduction in fungal multiplication in the hemocoel of the crabs in comparison to that in Hematodinium-free individuals. Histopathology of coinfected crabs showed a systemic multiplication of Hematodinium within host tissues, leading to a rapid death, while Hematodinium-free crabs experimentally infected with the fungal isolate died due to fungal sepsis (septicemia) with the same characteristic pathology as seen in natural infections.
PMCID: PMC3568540  PMID: 23160130
5.  A Quantitative Assessment of the Role of the Parasite Amoebophrya in the Termination of Alexandrium fundyense Blooms within a Small Coastal Embayment 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e81150.
Parasitic dinoflagellates of the genus Amoebophrya infect free-living dinoflagellates, some of which can cause harmful algal blooms (HABs). High prevalence of Amoebophrya spp. has been linked to the decline of some HABs in marine systems. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of Amoebophrya spp. on the dynamics of dinoflagellate blooms in Salt Pond (MA, USA), particularly the harmful species Alexandrium fundyense. The abundance of Amoebophrya life stages was estimated 3–7 days per week through the full duration of an annual A. fundyense bloom using fluorescence in situ hybridization coupled with tyramide signal amplification (FISH- TSA). More than 20 potential hosts were recorded including Dinophysis spp., Protoperidinium spp. and Gonyaulax spp., but the only dinoflagellate cells infected by Amoebophrya spp. during the sampling period were A. fundyense. Maximum A. fundyense concentration co-occurred with an increase of infected hosts, followed by a massive release of Amoebophrya dinospores in the water column. On average, Amoebophrya spp. infected and killed ∼30% of the A. fundyense population per day in the end phase of the bloom. The decline of the host A. fundyense population coincided with a dramatic life-cycle transition from vegetative division to sexual fusion. This transition occurred after maximum infected host concentrations and before peak infection percentages were observed, suggesting that most A. fundyense escaped parasite infection through sexual fusion. The results of this work highlight the importance of high frequency sampling of both parasite and host populations to accurately assess the impact of parasites on natural plankton assemblages.
PMCID: PMC3852033  PMID: 24324668
6.  Detection and Discovery of Crustacean Parasites in Blue Crabs (Callinectes sapidus) by Using 18S rRNA Gene-Targeted Denaturing High-Performance Liquid Chromatography▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(14):4346-4353.
Recently, we described a novel denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) approach useful for initial detection and identification of crustacean parasites. Because this approach utilizes general primers targeted to conserved regions of the 18S rRNA gene, a priori genetic sequence information on eukaryotic parasites is not required. This distinction provides a significant advantage over specifically targeted PCR assays that do not allow for the detection of unknown or unsuspected parasites. However, initial field evaluations of the DHPLC assay suggested that because of PCR-biased amplification of dominant host genes it was not possible to detect relatively rare parasite genes in infected crab tissue. Here, we describe the use of a peptide nucleic acid (PNA) PCR hybridization blocking probe in association with DHPLC (PNA-PCR DHPLC) to overcome inherent PCR bias associated with amplification of rare target genes by use of generic primers. This approach was utilized to detect infection of blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) by the parasitic dinoflagellate Hematodinium sp. Evaluation of 76 crabs caught in Wassaw Sound, GA, indicated a 97% correspondence between detection of the parasite by use of a specific PCR diagnostic assay and that by use of PNA-PCR DHPLC. During these studies, we discovered one crab with an association with a previously undescribed protist symbiont. Phylogenetic analysis of the amplified symbiont 18S rRNA gene indicated that it is most closely related to the free-living kinetoplastid parasite Procryptobia sorokini. To our knowledge, this is the first report of this parasite group in a decapod crab and of this organism exhibiting a presumably parasitic life history.
PMCID: PMC2493178  PMID: 18502913
7.  Absence of Ca2+-Induced Mitochondrial Permeability Transition but Presence of Bongkrekate-Sensitive Nucleotide Exchange in C. crangon and P. serratus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39839.
Mitochondria from the embryos of brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) do not undergo Ca2+-induced permeability transition in the presence of a profound Ca2+ uptake capacity. Furthermore, this crustacean is the only organism known to exhibit bongkrekate-insensitive mitochondrial adenine nucleotide exchange, prompting the conjecture that refractoriness to bongkrekate and absence of Ca2+-induced permeability transition are somehow related phenomena. Here we report that mitochondria isolated from two other crustaceans, brown shrimp (Crangon crangon) and common prawn (Palaemon serratus) exhibited bongkrekate-sensitive mitochondrial adenine nucleotide transport, but lacked a Ca2+-induced permeability transition. Ca2+ uptake capacity was robust in the absence of adenine nucleotides in both crustaceans, unaffected by either bongkrekate or cyclosporin A. Transmission electron microscopy images of Ca2+-loaded mitochondria showed needle-like formations of electron-dense material strikingly similar to those observed in mitochondria from the hepatopancreas of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) and the embryos of Artemia franciscana. Alignment analysis of the partial coding sequences of the adenine nucleotide translocase (ANT) expressed in Crangon crangon and Palaemon serratus versus the complete sequence expressed in Artemia franciscana reappraised the possibility of the 208-214 amino acid region for conferring sensitivity to bongkrekate. However, our findings suggest that the ability to undergo Ca2+-induced mitochondrial permeability transition and the sensitivity of adenine nucleotide translocase to bongkrekate are not necessarily related phenomena.
PMCID: PMC3387235  PMID: 22768139
8.  First record of a parasitic septate gregarines (Apicomplexa: Sporozoea) in the shrimp Peneaus monodon in Sundarbans of West Bengal 
Investigations on the incidence of septate gregarines in shrimp have immense importance because of severe pathogenicity of the parasite. The septate gregarines infect the midgut of shrimp Peneaus monodon and severe infection disturbs the intestinal tissues. Mostly gregarines of the genus Nematopsis have been identified from cultured peneaid shrimp. It has worldwide in distribution. In India, gregarine parasites have so far been reported from penaeid shrimps of Bombay and Kerala. The species which was isolated from the midgut of shrimp Peneaus monodon collected from Kharibari area of Sunderbans. 9 out of 20 i.e. 45% of the randomly sampled hosts were found to be infected with a species of the genus Nematopsis. Different developmental stages including trophozoites, sporadins, and gametocysts of the Nematopsis sp. infecting the shrimp have been isolated. No correlations have been established between incidence of infection and environmental parameters.
PMCID: PMC3081698  PMID: 21526032
Nematopsis sundarbanensis; Peneaus monodon; Septate gregarines; Gut parasite; Sundarbans
9.  Density dynamics of diverse Spiroplasma strains naturally infecting different species of Drosophila 
Fly  2013;7(3):204-210.
Facultative heritable bacterial endosymbionts can have dramatic effects on their hosts, ranging from mutualistic to parasitic. Within-host bacterial endosymbiont density plays a critical role in maintenance of a symbiotic relationship, as it can affect levels of vertical transmission and expression of phenotypic effects, both of which influence the infection prevalence in host populations. Species of genus Drosophila are infected with Spiroplasma, whose characterized phenotypic effects range from that of a male-killing reproductive parasite to beneficial defensive endosymbiont. For many strains of Spiroplasma infecting at least 17 species of Drosophila, however, the phenotypic effects are obscure. The infection prevalence of these Spiroplasma vary within and among Drosophila species, and little is known about the within-host density dynamics of these diverse strains. To characterize the patterns of Spiroplasma density variation among Drosophila we used quantitative PCR to assess bacterial titer at various life stages of three species of Drosophila naturally-infected with two different types of Spiroplasma. For naturally infected Drosophila species we found that non-male-killing infections had consistently lower densities than the male-killing infection. The patterns of Spiroplasma titer change during aging varied among Drosophila species infected with different Spiroplasma strains. Bacterial density varied within and among populations of Drosophila, with individuals from the population with the highest prevalence of infection having the highest density. This density variation underscores the complex interaction of Spiroplasma strain and host genetic background in determining endosymbiont density.
PMCID: PMC4049854  PMID: 23846301
Spiroplasma; Drosophila; vertically-transmitted endosymbiont; endosymbiont density
10.  Progression of Plasmodium berghei through Anopheles stephensi Is Density-Dependent 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(12):e195.
It is well documented that the density of Plasmodium in its vertebrate host modulates the physiological response induced; this in turn regulates parasite survival and transmission. It is less clear that parasite density in the mosquito regulates survival and transmission of this important pathogen. Numerous studies have described conversion rates of Plasmodium from one life stage to the next within the mosquito, yet few have considered that these rates might vary with parasite density. Here we establish infections with defined numbers of the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei to examine how parasite density at each stage of development (gametocytes; ookinetes; oocysts and sporozoites) influences development to the ensuing stage in Anopheles stephensi, and thus the delivery of infectious sporozoites to the vertebrate host. We show that every developmental transition exhibits strong density dependence, with numbers of the ensuing stages saturating at high density. We further show that when fed ookinetes at very low densities, oocyst development is facilitated by increasing ookinete number (i.e., the efficiency of ookinete–oocyst transformation follows a sigmoid relationship). We discuss how observations on this model system generate important hypotheses for the understanding of malaria biology, and how these might guide the rational analysis of interventions against the transmission of the malaria parasites of humans by their diverse vector species.
Author Summary
Malaria, one of the world's most devastating parasitic diseases, is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium and is transmitted between mammalian hosts by Anopheles mosquitoes. Within the mosquito, the parasite undergoes four sequential developmental transformations as it passes from the bloodmeal through the mosquito's midgut epithelium to the salivary glands, from where the parasite is inoculated when the mosquito bites the vertebrate host. This study demonstrates, in a laboratory model, that parasite input density at every developmental stage in the mosquito regulates output to the ensuing form. Statistical models were fitted to experimental data to identify and describe the most appropriate functional relationships. In all cases, the relationships between two consecutive parasite stages can saturate at high parasite densities, suggesting that at high parasite densities parasite numbers may have to be reduced substantially to effect an appreciable decrease in parasite transmission. These results may help establish a rational basis for new studies on species of medical importance and further our understanding of how interventions designed to reduce parasite survival within the mosquito might be expected to impact upon transmission.
PMCID: PMC2156095  PMID: 18166078
11.  Mutualism Breakdown by Amplification of Wolbachia Genes 
PLoS Biology  2015;13(2):e1002065.
Most insect species are associated with vertically transmitted endosymbionts. Because of the mode of transmission, the fitness of these symbionts is dependent on the fitness of the hosts. Therefore, these endosymbionts need to control their proliferation in order to minimize their cost for the host. The genetic bases and mechanisms of this regulation remain largely undetermined. The maternally inherited bacteria of the genus Wolbachia are the most common endosymbionts of insects, providing some of them with fitness benefits. In Drosophila melanogaster, Wolbachia wMelPop is a unique virulent variant that proliferates massively in the hosts and shortens their lifespan. The genetic bases of wMelPop virulence are unknown, and their identification would allow a better understanding of how Wolbachia levels are regulated. Here we show that amplification of a region containing eight Wolbachia genes, called Octomom, is responsible for wMelPop virulence. Using Drosophila lines selected for carrying Wolbachia with different Octomom copy numbers, we demonstrate that the number of Octomom copies determines Wolbachia titers and the strength of the lethal phenotype. Octomom amplification is unstable, and reversion of copy number to one reverts all the phenotypes. Our results provide a link between genotype and phenotype in Wolbachia and identify a genomic region regulating Wolbachia proliferation. We also prove that these bacteria can evolve rapidly. Rapid evolution by changes in gene copy number may be common in endosymbionts with a high number of mobile elements and other repeated regions. Understanding wMelPop pathogenicity and variability also allows researchers to better control and predict the outcome of releasing mosquitoes transinfected with this variant to block human vector-borne diseases. Our results show that transition from a mutualist to a pathogen may occur because of a single genomic change in the endosymbiont. This implies that there must be constant selection on endosymbionts to control their densities.
An elegant experimental evolution approach reveals that a strain of the symbiotic bacterium Wolbachia that over-replicates and shortens the life of its fruit fly host owes this property to the amplification of a small region of its genome. Read the accompanying Primer.
Author Summary
Insects frequently carry intracellular bacteria that are passed from generation to generation through their eggs. These intracellular symbionts can be beneficial or parasitic, but because of their mode of transmission, they are always dependent on the reproduction of their carriers. They therefore have to control their own growth in order to minimize deleterious effects on the host. Bacteria of the genus Wolbachia are the most common maternally transmitted intracellular bacteria in insects. Most Wolbachia variants that are naturally associated with the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster are benign to their hosts and provide them with protection against viruses. However, wMelPop is a virulent Wolbachia variant that over-replicates massively and shortens the lifespan of its fruit fly host. Here we show that amplification of a Wolbachia genomic region containing eight genes—called Octomom—is responsible for the pathogenic effects of wMelPop. Our results provide a link between genotype and phenotype in Wolbachia and show that virulence in symbionts can be simply caused by increases in gene copy number. These results also indicate that gene copy number variation may be a common mechanism underlying rapid evolution of intracellular symbionts.
PMCID: PMC4323108  PMID: 25668031
12.  Dinoflagellate phylogeny revisited: Using ribosomal proteins to resolve deep branching dinoflagellate clades 
The alveolates are composed of three major lineages, the ciliates, dinoflagellates, and apicomplexans. Together these ‘protist’ taxa play key roles in primary production and ecology, as well as in illness of humans and other animals. The interface between the dinoflagellate and apicomplexan clades has been an area of recent discovery, blurring the distinction between these two clades. Moreover, phylogenetic analysis has yet to determine the position of basal dinoflagellate clades hence the deepest branches of the dinoflagellate tree currently remain unresolved. Large-scale mRNA sequencing was applied to 11 species of dinoflagellates, including strains of the syndinean genera Hematodinium and Amoebophrya, parasites of crustaceans and dinoflagellates, respectively, to optimize and update the dinoflagellate tree. From the transcriptome-scale data a total of 73 ribosomal protein-coding genes were selected for phylogeny. After individual gene orthology assessment, the genes were concatenated into a >15,000 amino acid alignment with 76 taxa from dinoflagellates, apicomplexans, ciliates, and the outgroup heterokonts. Overall the tree was well resolved and supported, when the data was subsampled with gblocks or constraint trees were tested with the approximately unbiased test. The deepest branches of the dinoflagellate tree can now be resolved with strong support, and provides a clearer view of the evolution of the distinctive traits of dinoflagellates.
PMCID: PMC4144664  PMID: 24135237
Dinoflagellate; Alveolate; Heterokont; Apicomplexan; Ribosomal protein
13.  These Squatters Are Not Innocent: The Evidence of Parasitism in Sponge-Inhabiting Shrimps 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21987.
Marine sponges are frequently inhabited by a wide range of associated invertebrates, including caridean shrimps. Symbiotic shrimps are often considered to be commensals; however, in most cases, the relationship with sponge hosts remains unclear. Here we demonstrate that sponge-inhabiting shrimps are often parasites adapted to consumption of sponge tissues. First, we provide detailed examination of morphology and stomach contents of Typton carneus (Decapoda: Palaemonidae: Pontoniinae), a West Atlantic tropical shrimp living in fire sponges of the genus Tedania. Remarkable shear-like claws of T. carneus show evidence of intensive shearing, likely the result of crushing siliceous sponge spicules. Examination of stomach contents revealed that the host sponge tissue is a major source of food for T. carneus. A parasitic mode of life is also reflected in adaptations of mouth appendages, in the reproduction strategy, and in apparent sequestration of host pigments by shrimp. Consistent results were obtained also for congeneric species T. distinctus (Western Atlantic) and T. spongicola (Mediterranean). The distribution of shrimps among sponge hosts (mostly solitary individuals or heterosexual pairs) suggests that Typton shrimps actively prevent colonisation of their sponge by additional conspecifics, thus protecting their resource and reducing the damage to the hosts. We also demonstrate feeding on host tissues by sponge-associated shrimps of the genera Onycocaris, Periclimenaeus, and Thaumastocaris (Pontoniinae) and Synalpheus (Alpheidae). The parasitic mode of life appears to be widely distributed among sponge-inhabiting shrimps. However, it is possible that under some circumstances, the shrimps provide a service to the host sponge by preventing a penetration by potentially more damaging associated animals. The overall nature of interspecific shrimp-sponge relationships thus warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3140983  PMID: 21814564
14.  Evolutionary Relationships among Primary Endosymbionts of the Mealybug Subfamily Phenacoccinae (Hemiptera: Coccoidea: Pseudococcidae) ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(22):7521-7525.
Mealybugs (Coccoidea: Pseudococcidae) are sap-sucking plant parasites that harbor bacterial endosymbionts within specialized organs. Previous studies have identified two subfamilies, Pseudococcinae and Phenacoccinae, within mealybugs and determined the primary endosymbionts (P-endosymbionts) of the Pseudococcinae to be Betaproteobacteria (“Candidatus Tremblaya princeps”) containing Gammaproteobacteria secondary symbionts. Here, the P-endosymbionts of phenacoccine mealybugs are characterized based on 16S rRNA from the bacteria of 20 species of phenacoccine mealybugs and four outgroup Puto species (Coccoidea: Putoidae) and aligned to more than 100 published 16S rRNA sequences from symbiotic and free-living bacteria. Phylogenetic analyses recovered three separate lineages of bacteria from the Phenacoccinae, and these are considered to be the P-endosymbionts of their respective mealybug hosts, with those from (i) the mealybug genus Rastrococcus belonging to the Bacteroidetes, (ii) the subterranean mealybugs, tribe Rhizoecini, also within Bacteroidetes, in a clade sister to cockroach endosymbionts (Blattabacterium), and (iii) the remaining Phenacoccinae within the Betaproteobacteria, forming a well-supported sister group to “Candidatus Tremblaya princeps.” Names are proposed for two strongly supported lineages: “Candidatus Brownia rhizoecola” for P-endosymbionts of Rhizoecini and “Candidatus Tremblaya phenacola” for P-endosymbionts of Phenacoccinae excluding Rastrococcus and Rhizoecini. Rates of nucleotide substitution among lineages of Tremblaya were inferred to be significantly faster than those of free-living Betaproteobacteria. Analyses also recovered a clade of Gammaproteobacteria, sister to the P-endosymbiont lineage of aphids (“Candidatus Buchnera aphidicola”), containing the endosymbionts of Putoidae, the secondary endosymbionts of pseudococcine mealybugs, and the endosymbionts of several other insect groups.
PMCID: PMC2976180  PMID: 20851962
15.  Marine dinoflagellates show induced life-history shifts to escape parasite infection in response to water-borne signals. 
Many dinoflagellate species form dormant resting cysts as a part of their life cycle, and in some freshwater species, hatching of these cysts can be delayed by the presence of water-borne signals from grazing zooplankton. Some marine dinoflagellates can form temporary cysts, which may function to resist unfavourable short-term environmental conditions. We investigated whether the marine dinoflagellate Alexandrium ostenfeldii is able to induce an increased resistance to the parasitic flagellate Parvilucifera infectans by forming temporary cysts. We performed several laboratory experiments where dinoflagellates were exposed either to direct contact with parasites or to filtered water from cultures of parasite-infected conspecifics (parasite-derived signals). Infection by P. infectans is lethal to motile A. ostenfeldii cells, but temporary cysts were more resistant to parasite infection. Furthermore, A. ostenfeldii induced a shift in life-history stage (from motile cells to temporary cysts) when exposed to parasite-derived water-borne signals. The response was relaxed within a couple of hours, indicating that A. ostenfeldii may use this behaviour as a short-term escape mechanism to avoid parasite infection. The results suggest that intraspecies chemical communication evoked by biotic interactions can be an important mechanism controlling life-history shifts in marine dinoflagellates, which may have implications for the development of toxic algal blooms.
PMCID: PMC1691648  PMID: 15209107
16.  Erythrocyte G Protein as a Novel Target for Malarial Chemotherapy 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e528.
Malaria remains a serious health problem because resistance develops to all currently used drugs when their parasite targets mutate. Novel antimalarial drug targets are urgently needed to reduce global morbidity and mortality. Our prior results suggested that inhibiting erythrocyte Gs signaling blocked invasion by the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.
Methods and Findings
We investigated the erythrocyte guanine nucleotide regulatory protein Gs as a novel antimalarial target. Erythrocyte “ghosts” loaded with a Gs peptide designed to block Gs interaction with its receptors, were blocked in β-adrenergic agonist-induced signaling. This finding directly demonstrates that erythrocyte Gs is functional and that propranolol, an antagonist of G protein–coupled β-adrenergic receptors, dampens Gs activity in erythrocytes. We subsequently used the ghost system to directly link inhibition of host Gs to parasite entry. In addition, we discovered that ghosts loaded with the peptide were inhibited in intracellular parasite maturation. Propranolol also inhibited blood-stage parasite growth, as did other β2-antagonists. β-blocker growth inhibition appeared to be due to delay in the terminal schizont stage. When used in combination with existing antimalarials in cell culture, propranolol reduced the 50% and 90% inhibitory concentrations for existing drugs against P. falciparum by 5- to 10-fold and was also effective in reducing drug dose in animal models of infection.
Together these data establish that, in addition to invasion, erythrocyte G protein signaling is needed for intracellular parasite proliferation and thus may present a novel antimalarial target. The results provide proof of the concept that erythrocyte Gs antagonism offers a novel strategy to fight infection and that it has potential to be used to develop combination therapies with existing antimalarials.
Erythrocyte G protein signaling is needed for intracellular malarial parasite proliferation and thus may present a novel antimalarial target.
Editors' Summary
New drugs for treatment of malaria are urgently needed, because the malaria parasite has evolved resistance against virtually all types of commonly used drugs. When a person is bitten by a malaria-infected mosquito, the parasite first infects the person's liver cells before going on to infect red blood cells, where the parasites multiply and develop into a parasite stage called a schizont. The red blood cells then burst and release more schizonts into the bloodstream; it is this “blood stage” of infection in humans that causes the symptoms of disease. Therefore efforts to develop new drugs against malaria often focus on this “blood stage” of infection. One strategy for developing new drugs is termed the “host-targeted” approach. This means that rather than trying to block processes occurring within the parasite itself, a drug can be developed which blocks processes within the person's red blood cells, and which would otherwise be needed for the parasite to complete its life cycle. It will be difficult for malaria parasites to evolve resistance to such a drug, because changes in a person's red blood cells occur much more slowly than in the parasites themselves.
Why Was This Study Done?
This research group has been studying a set of molecular processes within human red blood cells which seemed to be required for entry of malaria parasites into the cells. They wanted to get a better understanding of those processes and, specifically, to find out whether it would be possible to use particular molecules to block those processes, and by doing so to prevent malaria parasites from entering and multiplying within red blood cells. In particular, when the malaria parasites invade the red blood cell, they form membranes around the red blood cell, containing lipids and proteins “hijacked” from the red blood cell membrane. These researchers already knew that two particular proteins were hijacked in this way; the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2-AR) and heterotrimeric G protein (Gs). These two proteins act together to pass messages across the surface of the membrane to inside the cell. Small molecules could be used to block signaling through β2-AR and Gs, and therefore potentially to provide a new way of preventing malaria parasites from entering red blood cells and multiplying within them.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Firstly, the researchers made red blood cell “ghosts” in which to study these molecular processes. This meant that they took fresh red blood cells from healthy human volunteers, burst them to remove half the contents and loaded them with markers and other cargoes before resealing the membranes of the cell. These resealed markers and cargoes allowed them to see what was happening inside the cells. Malaria parasites were able to invade these ghosts normally and multiply within them. When the researchers introduced a specific peptide (a molecule consisting of a short series of amino acids), they found that it blocked Gs signaling within the ghosts. This peptide also prevented malaria parasites from developing inside the ghosts. Therefore, they concluded that Gs signaling inside the red blood cell was important for the parasite life cycle. The researchers then examined a drug called propranolol which is already known to act on Gs signaling and which is commonly prescribed for high blood pressure. This drug also blocked development of malaria parasites inside the ghosts when used at a particular concentration. Finally, the researchers studied the effect of giving propranolol, along with other antimalarial drugs, to human malaria parasites in a culture dish and to mice injected with a malaria parasite that infects rodents. In these experiments, adding propranolol reduced the amount of other “parasite-targeted” drugs that were needed to effectively treat malarial infection in tissue culture and in mice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Showing that the Gs signaling pathway is important for the malaria parasite's life cycle opens up new possibilities for drug development. Specifically, propranolol (which is already approved for treatment of high blood pressure and other conditions) might itself provide a new candidate therapy, either alone or in combination with existing drugs. These combinations would first, however, need to be tested in human clinical trials, perhaps by seeing whether they have antimalarial activity in people who have not responded to existing antimalarial drugs. Since it acts to lower blood pressure, which can already be low in some people with malaria, there are some concerns that propranolol might not be a suitable drug candidate for use, especially with existing antimalarial drugs that also reduce blood pressure. However, other molecules which block Gs signaling could be tested for activity against malaria should propranolol prove not to be an ideal drug candidate.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization publishes a minisite containing links to information about all aspects of malaria worldwide, including treatment, prevention, and current programs for malaria control
Medicines for Malaria Venture is a collaboration between public and private organizations (including the pharmaceutical industry) that aims to fund and manage the development of new drugs for treatment and prevention of malaria
Wikipedia entries for drug discovery and drug development (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1716186  PMID: 17194200
17.  Global Gene Expression Analysis of the Zoonotic Parasite Trichinella spiralis Revealed Novel Genes in Host Parasite Interaction 
Trichinellosis is a typical food-borne zoonotic disease which is epidemic worldwide and the nematode Trichinella spiralis is the main pathogen. The life cycle of T. spiralis contains three developmental stages, i.e. adult worms, new borne larva (new borne L1 larva) and muscular larva (infective L1 larva). Stage-specific gene expression in the parasites has been investigated with various immunological and cDNA cloning approaches, whereas the genome-wide transcriptome and expression features of the parasite have been largely unknown. The availability of the genome sequence information of T. spiralis has made it possible to deeply dissect parasite biology in association with global gene expression and pathogenesis.
Methodology and Principal Findings
In this study, we analyzed the global gene expression patterns in the three developmental stages of T. spiralis using digital gene expression (DGE) analysis. Almost 15 million sequence tags were generated with the Illumina RNA-seq technology, producing expression data for more than 9,000 genes, covering 65% of the genome. The transcriptome analysis revealed thousands of differentially expressed genes within the genome, and importantly, a panel of genes encoding functional proteins associated with parasite invasion and immuno-modulation were identified. More than 45% of the genes were found to be transcribed from both strands, indicating the importance of RNA-mediated gene regulation in the development of the parasite. Further, based on gene ontological analysis, over 3000 genes were functionally categorized and biological pathways in the three life cycle stage were elucidated.
Conclusions and Significance
The global transcriptome of T. spiralis in three developmental stages has been profiled, and most gene activity in the genome was found to be developmentally regulated. Many metabolic and biological pathways have been revealed. The findings of the differential expression of several protein families facilitate understanding of the molecular mechanisms of parasite biology and the pathological aspects of trichinellosis.
Author Summary
Trichinellosis of human and other mammals was caused through the ingestion of the parasite Trichinella sparilis in contaminated meat. It is a typical zoonotic disease that affects more than 10 million people world-wide. Parasites of the genus Trichinella are unique intracellular pathogens. Adult Trichinella parasites directly release newborn larvae which invade striated muscle cells and causes diseases. In this study, we profiled the global transcriptome in the three developmental stages of T. spiralis. The transcriptomic analysis revealed the global gene expression patterns from newborn larval stage through muscle larval stage to adults. Thousands of genes with stage-specific transcriptional patterns were described and novel genes involving host-parasite interaction were identified. More than 45% of the protein-coding genes showed evidence of transcription from both sense and antisense strands which suggests the importance of RNA-mediated gene regulation in the parasite. This study presents a first deep analysis of the transcriptome of T. spiralis, providing insight information of the parasite biology.
PMCID: PMC3429391  PMID: 22953016
18.  Definitive, Intermediate, Paratenic, and Accidental Hosts of Angiostrongylus cantonensis and its Molluscan Intermediate Hosts in Hawa‘i 
Eosinophilic meningitis caused by infection with Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a parasitic nematode, is an emerging infectious disease of humans and other animals, known as angiostrongyliasis or rat lungworm disease. Symptoms range from headache and muscle spasms in mild cases to coma and even death. Many human cases have been recorded around the world, with the majority in tropical and subtropical locations. The increase in numbers of human cases and the expansion of the geographic distribution of cases make this parasite and its hosts important research foci. Definitive hosts include various rat species such as Rattus norvegicus, R. rattus, and R. exulans, and a number of land and freshwater snails and slugs have previously been identified as intermediate hosts.1 Both definitive and intermediate hosts are obligate to the life cycle of A. cantonensis. Paratenic hosts span a wide range of fauna and are not needed in the nematode's life cycle, but act as reservoirs in which different larval stages of the parasite can persist but not develop further; they include freshwater shrimp, flatworms, and frogs.2–4 Accidental hosts, including humans and other mammals, as well as birds, permit development from the third larval stage to the subadult (fifth) stage but are then dead ends for the parasite.5,6 These hosts are infected primarily through consumption of raw or undercooked intermediate or paratenic hosts, either intentionally or accidentally via contaminated produce.7
In Hawa‘i, there have been recent outbreaks with cases of infection on four of the main islands. Since there is currently a limited consensus on appropriate therapy, steps to prevent infection should be taken. The first step to facilitate this and to lay the groundwork for future management of the hosts is to identify the intermediate hosts of A. cantonensis and to determine its geographic distribution within the Hawaiian Islands. To do this over 1000 specimens of 37 terrestrial and freshwater snail and slug species (30 introduced, 7 native) from the six largest Hawaiian Islands were screened using a molecular approach.8 Total DNA was extracted from foot tissue of each specimen and was amplified using Angiostrongylus-specific primers.8 Amplicons were visualized on agarose gels to determine if specimens were positive or negative for A. cantonensis. All of the positive specimens and a random sample of all other specimens tested were also reamplified using species-specific primers.9 All positive samples were still positive with the newer primers. The parasite was present in 16 (14 alien, 2 native) of these species, from five of the six largest Hawaiian Islands. These species represent 10 phylogenetically diverse terrestrial pulmonate families and 2 more distantly related caenogastropod families (one terrestrial and one freshwater). This broad phylogenetic representation demonstrates that this parasite is not host specific, to the extent that perhaps even any snail or slug species could act as an intermediate host.
PMCID: PMC3689485
Angiostrongyliasis; Eosinophilic meningitis; Hawa‘i; Nematodes; Rat lungworm disease; Slugs; Snails
19.  Fusion between Leishmania amazonensis and Leishmania major Parasitophorous Vacuoles: Live Imaging of Coinfected Macrophages 
Protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania alternate between flagellated, elongated extracellular promastigotes found in insect vectors, and round-shaped amastigotes enclosed in phagolysosome-like Parasitophorous Vacuoles (PVs) of infected mammalian host cells. Leishmania amazonensis amastigotes occupy large PVs which may contain many parasites; in contrast, single amastigotes of Leishmania major lodge in small, tight PVs, which undergo fission as parasites divide. To determine if PVs of these Leishmania species can fuse with each other, mouse macrophages in culture were infected with non-fluorescent L. amazonensis amastigotes and, 48 h later, superinfected with fluorescent L. major amastigotes or promastigotes. Fusion was investigated by time-lapse image acquisition of living cells and inferred from the colocalization of parasites of the two species in the same PVs. Survival, multiplication and differentiation of parasites that did or did not share the same vacuoles were also investigated. Fusion of PVs containing L. amazonensis and L. major amastigotes was not found. However, PVs containing L. major promastigotes did fuse with pre-established L. amazonensis PVs. In these chimeric vacuoles, L. major promastigotes remained motile and multiplied, but did not differentiate into amastigotes. In contrast, in doubly infected cells, within their own, unfused PVs metacyclic-enriched L. major promastigotes, but not log phase promastigotes - which were destroyed - differentiated into proliferating amastigotes. The results indicate that PVs, presumably customized by L. major amastigotes or promastigotes, differ in their ability to fuse with L. amazonensis PVs. Additionally, a species-specific PV was required for L. major destruction or differentiation – a requirement for which mechanisms remain unknown. The observations reported in this paper should be useful in further studies of the interactions between PVs to different species of Leishmania parasites, and of the mechanisms involved in the recognition and fusion of PVs.
Author Summary
Many non-viral intracellular pathogens lodge within cell vesicles known as “parasitophorous vacuoles” (PVs), which exhibit a variety of pathogen-dependent functional and compositional phenotypes. PVs of the protozoan Leishmania are similar to the digestive organelles known as phagolysosomes. We asked if, in phagocytes infected with two different Leishmania species, would the two parasites be found in the same or in separate vacuoles? Of the species chosen, Leishmania amazonensis develops within large vacuoles which shelter many parasites; in contrast, Leishmania major lodges in small PVs containing one or two parasites. In the present experiments, the species and their life-cycle stages (extracellular promastigotes, and intracellular amastigotes) were distinguished by means of fluorescent markers, and the intracellular localization of the parasites was examined in living cells. We report here that, whereas L. major amastigotes remained within their individual vacuoles, L. major promastigotes were delivered to L. amazonensis vacuoles, in which they survived and multiplied but were unable to differentiate into amastigotes. A species-specific vacuole was thus required for L. major differentiation. The model should be useful in cellular and molecular studies of the biology of these parasites and of their parasitophorous vacuoles.
PMCID: PMC2998430  PMID: 21151877
20.  Dual RNA-seq of Parasite and Host Reveals Gene Expression Dynamics during Filarial Worm–Mosquito Interactions 
Parasite biology, by its very nature, cannot be understood without integrating it with that of the host, nor can the host response be adequately explained without considering the activity of the parasite. However, due to experimental limitations, molecular studies of parasite-host systems have been predominantly one-sided investigations focusing on either of the partners involved. Here, we conducted a dual RNA-seq time course analysis of filarial worm parasite and host mosquito to better understand the parasite processes underlying development in and interaction with the host tissue, from the establishment of infection to the development of infective-stage larva.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using the Brugia malayi–Aedes aegypti system, we report parasite gene transcription dynamics, which exhibited a highly ordered developmental program consisting of a series of cyclical and state-transitioning temporal patterns. In addition, we contextualized these parasite data in relation to the concurrent dynamics of the host transcriptome. Comparative analyses using uninfected tissues and different host strains revealed the influence of parasite development on host gene transcription as well as the influence of the host environment on parasite gene transcription. We also critically evaluated the life-cycle transcriptome of B. malayi by comparing developmental stages in the mosquito relative to those in the mammalian host, providing insight into gene expression changes underpinning the mosquito-borne parasitic lifestyle of this heteroxenous parasite.
The data presented herein provide the research community with information to design wet lab experiments and select candidates for future study to more fully dissect the whole set of molecular interactions of both organisms in this mosquito-filarial worm symbiotic relationship. Furthermore, characterization of the transcriptional program over the complete life cycle of the parasite, including stages within the mosquito, could help devise novel targets for control strategies.
Author Summary
In a parasitic relationship, both host and parasite genotypes influence the parameters of their relationship. Previous studies examining host-parasite systems have examined the effects of the genotype of the host or the parasite on the relationship, but due to limitations of technology, have rarely examined interactions between the two genotypes. Here, we utilized a dual RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) approach to examine the entirety of the known transcriptomes and their interactions in the dynamic process of filarial worm development in the mosquito. In addition, the unprecedented sequencing depth achieved with this technology allowed us to compare, for the first time, parasite gene expression of larval developmental stages within the intermediate host with those life cycle stages found within the mammalian definitive host. These data provide a strong foundation for understanding how Brugia malayi interacts with its vector's transcriptome temporally during its complex life cycle and also simultaneously provides information on how Aedes aegypti responds to filarial worm infection. These data are extremely valuable for future studies of the underlying mechanisms of this mosquito-filarial worm relationship.
PMCID: PMC4031193  PMID: 24853112
21.  The Activities of Current Antimalarial Drugs on the Life Cycle Stages of Plasmodium: A Comparative Study with Human and Rodent Parasites 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001169.
Michael Delves and colleagues compare the activity of 50 current and experimental antimalarials against liver, sexual blood, and mosquito stages of selected human and nonhuman parasite species, including Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium berghei, and Plasmodium yoelii.
Malaria remains a disease of devastating global impact, killing more than 800,000 people every year—the vast majority being children under the age of 5. While effective therapies are available, if malaria is to be eradicated a broader range of small molecule therapeutics that are able to target the liver and the transmissible sexual stages are required. These new medicines are needed both to meet the challenge of malaria eradication and to circumvent resistance.
Methods and Findings
Little is known about the wider stage-specific activities of current antimalarials that were primarily designed to alleviate symptoms of malaria in the blood stage. To overcome this critical gap, we developed assays to measure activity of antimalarials against all life stages of malaria parasites, using a diverse set of human and nonhuman parasite species, including male gamete production (exflagellation) in Plasmodium falciparum, ookinete development in P. berghei, oocyst development in P. berghei and P. falciparum, and the liver stage of P. yoelii. We then compared 50 current and experimental antimalarials in these assays. We show that endoperoxides such as OZ439, a stable synthetic molecule currently in clinical phase IIa trials, are strong inhibitors of gametocyte maturation/gamete formation and impact sporogony; lumefantrine impairs development in the vector; and NPC-1161B, a new 8-aminoquinoline, inhibits sporogony.
These data enable objective comparisons of the strengths and weaknesses of each chemical class at targeting each stage of the lifecycle. Noting that the activities of many compounds lie within achievable blood concentrations, these results offer an invaluable guide to decisions regarding which drugs to combine in the next-generation of antimalarial drugs. This study might reveal the potential of life-cycle–wide analyses of drugs for other pathogens with complex life cycles.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. According to latest global estimates, about 250 million people are infected with malaria every year with roughly 800,000 deaths—most occurring among young children living in Africa. Malaria also causes severe morbidity in children, such as anemia, low birth weight, and neurological problems, which compromise the health and development of millions of children living in malaria endemic areas. In addition to strategies that scale up and roll out the prevention of malaria, such as country-wide programs to provide insecticide-treating bednets, in the goal to eradicate malaria, the global health community has refocused efforts on the treatment of malaria, including finding new compounds that target different stages of the parasite life cycle as it passes from vector to host and back.
The interruption of malaria transmission worldwide is one of the greatest challenges for the global health community. In January 2011, this journal published a series on The Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA), which described a set of research and development priorities, identified key knowledge gaps and the necessary tools needed, and introduced a draft research and development agenda for the worldwide eradication of malaria.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most currently available antimalarial drugs primarily target the disease-causing parasites' stages in the human blood system. But to eradicate malaria, new drugs that block transmission of the parasite between the human host and the mosquito vector, and eliminate the various stages of the parasite during its cycle in the human body, are needed. In this laboratory study, the researchers compared the profiles of all available and experimental antimalarials and analyzed each drug for activity against each specific stage in the malaria parasite's life cycle to provide a reference set of methods and data, that might serve as a benchmark to help guide the malaria research community in assessing the potential of newly discovered antimalarials. Furthermore, this analysis could provide insights into which chemical drug classes might provide transmission-blocking capabilities—an essential component of malaria eradication.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used novel laboratory techniques under standardized conditions to develop a series of novel assays to analyze the activities of 50 antimalarial compounds (current drugs and those under development) against three Plasmodium species encompassing every major cellular strategy of the malarial life cycle including drug resistant parasite strains. In their comparative analysis, the researchers undertook a chemical profiling approach to identify the drugs that block transmission from the host to the mosquito vector and additionally suppress transmission from the mosquito to the human host.
The researchers highlighted some encouraging results; for example, the potencies of some antimalarials against the asexual blood stage of cultivated P. falciparum and P. vivax isolates show a very good correlation, suggesting that most of the pathways inhibited by antimalarials in P. falciparum may also be valid targets in P. vivax. The researchers also have shown that approved drugs, such as pyronaridine and atovaquone, can target liver and sexual stages in addition to asexual blood stages. Furthermore, the researchers found promising results for new compounds currently in clinical trials, such as the endoperoxide OZ439, a stable synthetic molecule currently being studied in a phase IIa clinical trial, which seemed to be a strong inhibitor of gametocyte maturation and gamete formation. The new 8-aminoquinoline, NPC-1161B, also inhibited sporogony.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this analysis provide a valuable guide to help researchers decide which drugs and compounds show most promise as potential future antimalarial drugs for blocking the transmission of malaria. This study could also help researchers make decisions about which molecules could be best combined to provide the next generation of drugs that will succeed artemisinin compound therapy and support the eradication of malaria. Furthermore, this comprehensive approach to drug discovery could be applied to test drugs against other pathogens with complex life cycles.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The malERA a research agenda for malaria eradication sponsored collection, published by PLoS in January 2011, comprises 12 Review articles that discuss agendas in malaria research and development
PMCID: PMC3283556  PMID: 22363211
22.  Differential Spatial Repositioning of Activated Genes in Biomphalaria glabrata Snails Infected with Schistosoma mansoni 
Schistosomiasis is an infectious disease infecting mammals as the definitive host and fresh water snails as the intermediate host. Understanding the molecular and biochemical relationship between the causative schistosome parasite and its hosts will be key to understanding and ultimately treating and/or eradicating the disease. There is increasing evidence that pathogens that have co-evolved with their hosts can manipulate their hosts' behaviour at various levels to augment an infection. Bacteria, for example, can induce beneficial chromatin remodelling of the host genome. We have previously shown in vitro that Biomphalaria glabrata embryonic cells co-cultured with schistosome miracidia display genes changing their nuclear location and becoming up-regulated. This also happens in vivo in live intact snails, where early exposure to miracidia also elicits non-random repositioning of genes. We reveal differences in the nuclear repositioning between the response of parasite susceptible snails as compared to resistant snails and with normal or live, attenuated parasites. Interestingly, the stress response gene heat shock protein (Hsp) 70 is only repositioned and then up-regulated in susceptible snails with the normal parasite. This movement and change in gene expression seems to be controlled by the parasite. Other differences in the behaviour of genes support the view that some genes are responding to tissue damage, for example the ferritin genes move and are up-regulated whether the snails are either susceptible or resistant and upon exposure to either normal or attenuated parasite. This is the first time host genome reorganisation has been seen in a parasitic host and only the second time for any pathogen. We believe that the parasite elicits a spatio-epigenetic reorganisation of the host genome to induce favourable gene expression for itself and this might represent a fundamental mechanism present in the human host infected with schistosome cercariae as well as in other host-pathogen relationships.
Author Summary
Bilharzia is a parasitic disease endemic in many parts of the world. The schistosoma parasite that causes Bilharzia infects humans but uses a fresh water snail as a secondary host. These two organisms have co-evolved together, and as such the parasite will have mechanisms to overcome the host defences. Understanding this delicately balanced relationship is fundamental to controlling or eradicating the disease. We have studied how this parasite can influence how the DNA within the snail behaves. We have shown snail genes have specific locations within the cell nuclei. Further, we have revealed that specific snail genes related to a schistosome infection change to a new non-random nuclear location as they are turned on or up-regulated. We have snail strains that are susceptible or resistant to the infection of parasites and we can also take live parasites and make them unable to complete an infection by irradiating them. In this unique study, we have shown a gene that is involved in stress pathways moves to a new nuclear location and becomes turned on, but only in susceptible snails, infected with fully functional parasite. Our data suggest that this gene is regulated by the parasite, which has control over the host's DNA, so that the gene is moved to an area where it can be actively expressed. We have uncovered a novel mechanism whereby the spatial organization of a host organism is interfered with by a pathogen. This type of control is probably found in other host-pathogen relationships.
PMCID: PMC4161332  PMID: 25211244
23.  Vertical Transmission of a Drosophila Endosymbiont Via Cooption of the Yolk Transport and Internalization Machinery 
mBio  2013;4(2):e00532-12.
Spiroplasma is a diverse bacterial clade that includes many vertically transmitted insect endosymbionts, including Spiroplasma poulsonii, a natural endosymbiont of Drosophila melanogaster. These bacteria persist in the hemolymph of their adult host and exhibit efficient vertical transmission from mother to offspring. In this study, we analyzed the mechanism that underlies their vertical transmission, and here we provide strong evidence that these bacteria use the yolk uptake machinery to colonize the germ line. We show that Spiroplasma reaches the oocyte by passing through the intercellular space surrounding the ovarian follicle cells and is then endocytosed into oocytes within yolk granules during the vitellogenic stages of oogenesis. Mutations that disrupt yolk uptake by oocytes inhibit vertical Spiroplasma transmission and lead to an accumulation of these bacteria outside the oocyte. Impairment of yolk secretion by the fat body results in Spiroplasma not reaching the oocyte and a severe reduction of vertical transmission. We propose a model in which Spiroplasma first interacts with yolk in the hemolymph to gain access to the oocyte and then uses the yolk receptor, Yolkless, to be endocytosed into the oocyte. Cooption of the yolk uptake machinery is a powerful strategy for endosymbionts to target the germ line and achieve vertical transmission. This mechanism may apply to other endosymbionts and provides a possible explanation for endosymbiont host specificity.
Most insect species, including important disease vectors and crop pests, harbor vertically transmitted endosymbiotic bacteria. Studies have shown that many facultative endosymbionts, including Spiroplasma, confer protection against different classes of parasites on their hosts and therefore are attractive tools for the control of vector-borne diseases. The ability to be efficiently transmitted from females to their offspring is the key feature shaping associations between insects and their inherited endosymbionts, but to date, little is known about the mechanisms involved. In oviparous animals, yolk accumulates in developing eggs and serves to meet the nutritional demands of embryonic development. Here we show that Spiroplasma coopts the yolk transport and uptake machinery to colonize the germ line and ensure efficient vertical transmission. The uptake of yolk is a female germ line-specific feature and therefore an attractive target for cooption by endosymbionts that need to maintain high-fidelity maternal transmission.
PMCID: PMC3585447  PMID: 23462112
24.  Classification and identification of Pfiesteria and Pfiesteria-like species. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2001;109(Suppl 5):661-665.
Dinoflagellates can be classified both botanically and zoologically; however, they are typically put in the botanical division Pyrrhophyta. As a group they appear most related to the protistan ciliates and apicomplexans at the ultrastructure level. Within the Pyrrhophyta are both unarmored and armored forms of the dominant, motile flagellated stage. Unarmored dinoflagellates do not have thecal or wall plates arranged in specific series, whereas armored species have plates that vary in thickness but are specific in number and arrangement. In armored dinoflagellates, the plate pattern and tabulation is a diagnostic character at the family, subfamily, and even genus levels. In most cases, the molecular characterization of dinoflagellates confirms the taxonomy on the basis of external morphology; this has been demonstrated for several groups. Together, both genetic and morphological criteria are becoming increasingly important for the characterization, separation, and identification of dinoflagellates species. Pfiesteria and Pfiesteria-like species are thinly armored forms with motile dinospore stages characterized by their distinct plate formulae. Pfiesteria piscicida is the best-known member of the genus; however, there is at least one other species. Other genetically and morphologically related genera, now grouped under the common names of "Lucy," "Shepherd's crook," and cryptoperidiniopsoid, are being studied and described in separate works. All these other heterotrophic dinoflagellate groups, many of which are thought to be benign, co-occur in estuarine waters where Pfiesteria has been found.
PMCID: PMC1240595  PMID: 11677173
25.  Sequence mining and transcript profiling to explore cyst nematode parasitism 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:58.
Cyst nematodes are devastating plant parasites that become sedentary within plant roots and induce the transformation of normal plant cells into elaborate feeding cells with the help of secreted effectors, the parasitism proteins. These proteins are the translation products of parasitism genes and are secreted molecular tools that allow cyst nematodes to infect plants.
We present here the expression patterns of all previously described parasitism genes of the soybean cyst nematode, Heterodera glycines, in all major life stages except the adult male. These insights were gained by analyzing our gene expression dataset from experiments using the Affymetrix Soybean Genome Array GeneChip, which contains probeset sequences for 6,860 genes derived from preparasitic and parasitic H. glycines life stages. Targeting the identification of additional H. glycines parasitism-associated genes, we isolated 633 genes encoding secretory proteins using algorithms to predict secretory signal peptides. Furthermore, because some of the known H. glycines parasitism proteins have strongest similarity to proteins of plants and microbes, we searched for predicted protein sequences that showed their highest similarities to plant or microbial proteins and identified 156 H. glycines genes, some of which also contained a signal peptide. Analyses of the expression profiles of these genes allowed the formulation of hypotheses about potential roles in parasitism. This is the first study combining sequence analyses of a substantial EST dataset with microarray expression data of all major life stages (except adult males) for the identification and characterization of putative parasitism-associated proteins in any parasitic nematode.
We have established an expression atlas for all known H. glycines parasitism genes. Furthermore, in an effort to identify additional H. glycines genes with putative functions in parasitism, we have reduced the currently known 6,860 H. glycines genes to a pool of 788 most promising candidate genes (including known parasitism genes) and documented their expression profiles. Using our approach to pre-select genes likely involved in parasitism now allows detailed functional analyses in a manner not feasible for larger numbers of genes. The generation of the candidate pool described here is an important enabling advance because it will significantly facilitate the unraveling of fascinating plant-animal interactions and deliver knowledge that can be transferred to other pathogen-host systems. Ultimately, the exploration of true parasitism genes verified from the gene pool delineated here will identify weaknesses in the nematode life cycle that can be exploited by novel anti-nematode efforts.
PMCID: PMC2640417  PMID: 19183474

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