Background: Schistosome bloodflukes are complex trematodes responsible for 200 million cases of schistosomiasis worldwide. Their life cycle is characterized by a series of remarkable morphological and biochemical transitions between an invertebrate host, an aquatic environment, and a mammalian host. We report a global transcriptional analysis of how this parasite alters gene regulation to adapt to three distinct environments.
Results: Utilizing a genomic microarray made of 12,000 45-50-mer oligonucleotides based on expressed sequence tags, three different developmental stages of the schistosome parasite were analyzed by pair-wise comparisons of transcript hybridization signals. This analysis resulted in the identification of 1,154 developmentally enriched transcripts.
Conclusion: This study expands the repertoire of schistosome genes analyzed for stage-specific expression to over 70% of the predicted genome. Among the new associations identified are the roles of robust protein synthesis and programmed cell death in development of cercariae in the sporocyst stages, the relative paucity of cercarial gene expression outside of energy production, and the remarkable diversity of adult gene expression programs that reflect adaptation to the host bloodstream and an average lifespan that may approach 10 years.