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. 2012 Nov 13;13:617.
doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-13-617.

The Schistosoma Mansoni Phylome: Using Evolutionary Genomics to Gain Insight Into a Parasite's Biology

Free PMC article

The Schistosoma Mansoni Phylome: Using Evolutionary Genomics to Gain Insight Into a Parasite's Biology

Larissa Lopes Silva et al. BMC Genomics. .
Free PMC article


Background: Schistosoma mansoni is one of the causative agents of schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease that affects about 237 million people worldwide. Despite recent efforts, we still lack a general understanding of the relevant host-parasite interactions, and the possible treatments are limited by the emergence of resistant strains and the absence of a vaccine. The S. mansoni genome was completely sequenced and still under continuous annotation. Nevertheless, more than 45% of the encoded proteins remain without experimental characterization or even functional prediction. To improve our knowledge regarding the biology of this parasite, we conducted a proteome-wide evolutionary analysis to provide a broad view of the S. mansoni's proteome evolution and to improve its functional annotation.

Results: Using a phylogenomic approach, we reconstructed the S. mansoni phylome, which comprises the evolutionary histories of all parasite proteins and their homologs across 12 other organisms. The analysis of a total of 7,964 phylogenies allowed a deeper understanding of genomic complexity and evolutionary adaptations to a parasitic lifestyle. In particular, the identification of lineage-specific gene duplications pointed to the diversification of several protein families that are relevant for host-parasite interaction, including proteases, tetraspanins, fucosyltransferases, venom allergen-like proteins, and tegumental-allergen-like proteins. In addition to the evolutionary knowledge, the phylome data enabled us to automatically re-annotate 3,451 proteins through a phylogenetic-based approach rather than solely sequence similarity searches. To allow further exploitation of this valuable data, all information has been made available at PhylomeDB (

Conclusions: In this study, we used an evolutionary approach to assess S. mansoni parasite biology, improve genome/proteome functional annotation, and provide insights into host-parasite interactions. Taking advantage of a proteome-wide perspective rather than focusing on individual proteins, we identified that this parasite has experienced specific gene duplication events, particularly affecting genes that are potentially related to the parasitic lifestyle. These innovations may be related to the mechanisms that protect S. mansoni against host immune responses being important adaptations for the parasite survival in a potentially hostile environment. Continuing this work, a comparative analysis involving genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data from other helminth parasites, other parasites, and vectors will supply more information regarding parasite's biology as well as host-parasite interactions.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Pipeline used to reconstruct and analyze the S. mansoni phylome. Each protein sequence encoded in the parasite genome was compared against a database of proteins from other 12 fully sequenced eukaryotic proteomes (Table 1) to select putative homologous proteins. Groups of potential homologs were aligned and subsequently trimmed to remove gap-rich regions. The refined alignment was used to build a NJ tree, which was then used as a “seed” tree to perform a ML likelihood analysis as implemented in PhyML. In the ML analysis, up to five different evolutionary models were tested and the model best fitting to the data was determined by the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC). Different algorithms were used to identify homology relationships and lineage-specific duplications. To extract and interpret the large data set obtained a Structured Query Language (SQL) relational database was built. This database was the main resource for data mining in this work. Adapted from [39].
Figure 2
Figure 2
Homology relationships and evolutionary events inferred from the analysis of a S. mansoni protein.A) Phylogenetic tree reconstructed for the parasite “seed” protein Phy000V0I5_SCHMA (Smp_175750). B) Homology relationships identified between the “seed” protein and its homologs in the other species.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Example of functional prediction based on phylogenetic analysis. The protein sequences are represented by the internal identifier in PhylomeDB. Relationships among the parasite Phy000V14T_SCHMA “seed” protein (Smp_170950) and its homologs in other species (Table 1) as inferred by maximum likelihood method implemented in PhyML. Support values were computed by approximate likelihood ratio test (aLTR). Curly brackets hold Gene Ontology (GO) terms for proteins in this dataset.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Phylogenetic relationships of schistosome lineage-specific duplicated tetraspanins. Analysis was performed with trimmed sequence alignment by using the maximum likelihood method as implemented in PhyML. Best fit model (WAG) and support values for each node were estimated by the Akaike Likelihood Ratio Test (aLRT). Sequence labels follow the PhylomeDB internal identifier. For details, see supplementary data (Additional file 1 Table S3).

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