Elucidating the transcriptome of Fasciola hepatica - a key to fundamental and biotechnological discoveries for a neglected parasite

Biotechnol Adv. 2010 Mar-Apr;28(2):222-31. doi: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2009.12.003. Epub 2009 Dec 16.


Liver flukes of animals are parasitic flatworms (Platyhelminthes: Digenea) of major socioeconomic importance in many countries. Key representatives, such as Fasciola hepatica and F. gigantica, cause "liver fluke disease" (= fascioliasis), which is of major animal health significance worldwide. In particular, F. hepatica is a leading cause of production losses to the livestock (mainly sheep and cattle) and meat industries due to clinical disease, reduced weight gain and milk production, and deaths. This parasite is also a major food-borne pathogen of humans throughout parts of the Middle East, Asia and South America. Currently, there is a significant focus on the development of new approaches for the prevention and control of fascioliasis in livestock. Recent technological advances in genomics and bioinformatics provide unique opportunities for the identification and prevalidation of drug targets and vaccines through a better understanding of the biology of F. hepatica and related species as well as their relationship with their hosts at the molecular level. Surprisingly, despite the widespread socioeconomic impact of fascioliasis, genomic datasets for F. hepatica are scant, limiting the molecular biological research of this parasite. The present article explores specifically the transcriptome of the adult stage of F. hepatica using an integrated genomic-bioinformatic platform. The analysis of the current data reveals numerous molecules of biological relevance, some of which are inferred to be involved in key biological processes or pathways that could serve as targets for new trematocidal drugs or vaccines. Improved insights into the transcriptome of F. hepatica should pave the way for future, comparative analysis of the transcriptomes of other developmental stages of this and related parasites, such as F. gigantica, cancer-causing flatworms (Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverrini) and blood flukes (Schistosoma mansoni and S. japonicum). Prediction of the essentiality of genes and their products, molecular network connectivity of trematode genes as well as experimental exploration of function should also add value to the genomic discovery efforts in the future, focused on biotechnological outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotechnology*
  • Computational Biology
  • Fasciola hepatica / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Life Cycle Stages / genetics
  • Parasites / genetics*
  • Parasites / growth & development