The miRnome of Fasciola hepatica juveniles endorses the existence of a reduced set of highly divergent micro RNAs in parasitic flatworms

Int J Parasitol. 2015 Dec;45(14):901-13. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2015.06.007. Epub 2015 Sep 30.


The liver fluke Fasciola hepatica is a foodborne zoonotic parasite affecting livestock worldwide, with increasing relevance in human health. The first developmental stage that the host meets after ingestion of the parasite is the newly excysted juvenile, that actively transverses the gut wall and migrates to its final location in the liver. The regulation of the early developmental events in newly excysted juveniles is still poorly understood and a relevant target for control strategies. Here we investigated the putative involvement of small regulatory RNAs in the invasion process. The small RNA population of the newly excysted juvenile fall into two classes, one represented by micro (mi)RNAs and a secondary group of larger (32-33 nucleotides) tRNA-derived sequences. We identified 40 different miRNAs, most of those belonging to ancient miRNAs conserved in protostomes and metazoans, notably with a highly predominant miR-125b variant. Remarkably, several protostomian and metazoan conserved families were not detected in consonance with previous reports of drastic miRnome reduction in parasitic flatworms. Additionally, a set of five novel miRNAs was identified, probably associated with specific gene regulation expression needs in F. hepatica. While sequence conservation in mature miRNA is high across the metazoan tree, we observed that flatworm miRNAs are more divergent, suggesting that mutation rates in parasitic flatworms could be high. Finally, the distinctive presence of tRNA-derived sequences, mostly 5' tRNA halves of selected tRNAs in the small RNA population of newly excysted juveniles, raises the possibility that both miRNA and tRNA fragments participate in the regulation of gene expression in this parasite.

Keywords: Fasciola hepatica; Newly excysted juveniles; miRNAs; tRNA halves.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fasciola hepatica / genetics*
  • Fasciola hepatica / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Transfer / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Transfer

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE66490