De novo assembly and sex-specific transcriptome profiling in the sand fly Phlebotomus perniciosus (Diptera, Phlebotominae), a major Old World vector of Leishmania infantum

BMC Genomics. 2015 Oct 23:16:847. doi: 10.1186/s12864-015-2088-x.


Background: The phlebotomine sand fly Phlebotomus perniciosus (Diptera: Psychodidae, Phlebotominae) is a major Old World vector of the protozoan Leishmania infantum, the etiological agent of visceral and cutaneous leishmaniases in humans and dogs, a worldwide re-emerging diseases of great public health concern, affecting 101 countries. Despite the growing interest in the study of this sand fly species in the last years, the development of genomic resources has been limited so far. To increase the available sequence data for P. perniciosus and to start studying the molecular basis of the sexual differentiation in sand flies, we performed whole transcriptome Illumina RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) of adult males and females and de novo transcriptome assembly.

Results: We assembled 55,393 high quality transcripts, of which 29,292 were unique, starting from adult whole body male and female pools. 11,736 transcripts had at least one functional annotation, including full-length low abundance salivary transcripts, 981 transcripts were classified as putative long non-coding RNAs and 244 transcripts encoded for putative novel proteins specific of the Phlebotominae sub-family. Differential expression analysis identified 8590 transcripts significantly biased between sexes. Among them, some show relaxation of selective constraints when compared to their orthologs of the New World sand fly species Lutzomyia longipalpis.

Conclusions: In this paper, we present a comprehensive transcriptome resource for the sand fly species P. perniciosus built from short-read RNA-seq and we provide insights into sex-specific gene expression at adult stage. Our analysis represents a first step towards the identification of sex-specific genes and pathways and a foundation for forthcoming investigations into this important vector species, including the study of the evolution of sex-biased genes and of the sexual differentiation in phlebotomine sand flies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors / genetics
  • Leishmania infantum / genetics
  • Leishmania infantum / pathogenicity
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / genetics*
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / parasitology
  • Male
  • Phlebotomus / genetics*
  • Phlebotomus / parasitology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Transcriptome / genetics*