Here we report the identification of a new family of helminth neuropeptides with members in both nematodes and flatworms, and include preliminary cell biological and functional characterisation of one of the peptides from the trematode parasite of humans, Schistosoma mansoni. Bioinformatics and Rapid Amplification of cDNA Ends (RACE)-PCR were used to identify the complete S. mansoni neuropeptide precursor gene Sm-npp-1, which encodes three pentapeptides bearing the motif (A/G)FVR(I/L).NH(2). Similar peptides were identified in three other flatworm species and in 15 nematode species. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) and immunocytochemical (ICC) analyses showed that Sm-npp-1 is constitutively expressed in larval and adult worms. ICC and confocal microscopy were employed to localise one of the schistosome NPP-1 peptides (GFVRIamide) in adult worms and schistosomules; antibodies labelled a pair of neurones in the cerebral ganglia that extend posteriorly along the main nerve cords. GFVRIamide displayed no detectable co-localisation with FMRFamide-like peptides (FLPs), nor was it detectable in muscle innervation. Exogenously applied peptide had a significant inhibitory effect on the mobility of whole adult worm pairs at 10(-5)M (n = 9). Finally, we explored Sm-npp-1 function in schistosomules using RNA interference (RNAi); we successfully achieved specific knockdown of the Sm-npp-1 transcript (54.46 ± 10.41% knockdown, n = 3), but did not detect any clear, aberrant mobility or morphological phenotypes. NPP-1-like peptides are a new family of helminth peptides with a cell-specific expression pattern distinct from FLPs and a modulatory effect on schistosome muscular activity.
Copyright © 2011 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.