The cell biology of schistosomes: a window on the evolution of the early metazoa

Protoplasma. 2012 Jul;249(3):503-18. doi: 10.1007/s00709-011-0326-x.


This review of schistosome cell biology has a dual purpose; its intent is to alert two separate research communities to the activities of the other. Schistosomes are by far and away the best-characterised platyhelminths, due to their medical and economic importance, but seem to be almost totally ignored by researchers on the free-living lower metazoans. Equally, in their enthusiasm for the parasitic way of life, schistosome researchers seldom pay attention to the work on free-living animals that could inform their molecular investigations. The publication of transcriptomes and/or genomes for Schistosoma mansoni and Schistosoma japonicum, the sponge Archimedon, the cnidarians Nematostella and Hydra and the planarian Schmidtea provide the raw material for comparisons. Apart from interrogation of the databases for molecular similarities, there have been differences in technical approach to these lower metazoans; widespread application of whole mount in situ hybridisation to Schmidtea contrasts with the application of targeted proteomics to schistosomes. Using schistosome cell biology as the template, the key topics of cell adhesion, development, signalling pathways, nerve and muscle, and epithelia, are reviewed, where possible interspersing comparisons with the sponge, cnidarian and planarian data. The biggest jump in the evolution of cellular capabilities appears to be in the transition from a diploblast to triploblast level of organisation associated with development of a mobile and plastic body form.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Digestive System / cytology
  • Digestive System / metabolism
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Genome, Helminth
  • Helminth Proteins / metabolism
  • Helminth Proteins / physiology
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology
  • Proteomics
  • Schistosoma / cytology*
  • Schistosoma / genetics
  • Schistosoma / growth & development
  • Signal Transduction


  • Helminth Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins