An "in-depth" description of the small non-coding RNA population of Schistosoma japonicum schistosomulum

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2010 Feb 9;4(2):e596. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000596.


Parasitic flatworms of the genus Schistosoma are the causative agents of schistosomiasis, which afflicts more than 200 million people yearly in tropical regions of South America, Asia and Africa. A promising approach to the control of this and many other diseases involves the application of our understanding of small non-coding RNA function to the design of safe and effective means of treatment. In a previous study, we identified five conserved miRNAs from the adult stage of Schistosoma japonicum. Here, we applied Illumina Solexa high-throughput sequencing methods (deep sequencing) to investigate the small RNAs expressed in S. japonicum schistosomulum (3 weeks post-infection). This has allowed us to examine over four million sequence reads including both frequently and infrequently represented members of the RNA population. Thus we have identified 20 conserved miRNA families that have orthologs in well-studied model organisms and 16 miRNA that appear to be specific to Schistosoma. We have also observed minor amounts of heterogeneity in both 3' and 5' terminal positions of some miRNA as well as RNA fragments resulting from the processing of miRNA precursor. An investigation of the genomic arrangement of the 36 identified miRNA revealed that seven were tightly linked in two clusters. We also identified members of the small RNA population whose structure indicates that they are part of an endogenously derived RNA silencing pathway, as evidenced by their extensive complementarities with retrotransposon and retrovirus-related Pol polyprotein from transposon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Genes, Helminth
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • RNA, Helminth / genetics*
  • Schistosoma japonicum / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Helminth