Background: The disease scabies, caused by the ectoparasitic mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, causes significant morbidity in humans and other mammals worldwide. However, there is limited data available regarding the molecular basis of host specificity and host-parasite interactions. Therefore, we sought to produce a draft genome for S. scabiei and use this to identify molecular markers that will be useful for phylogenetic population studies and to identify candidate protein-coding genes that are critical to the unique biology of the parasite.
Methods: S. scabiei var. canis DNA was isolated from living mites and sequenced to ultra-deep coverage using paired-end technology. Sequence reads were assembled into gapped contigs using de Bruijn graph based algorithms. The assembled genome was examined for repetitive elements and gene annotation was performed using ab initio, and homology-based methods.
Results: The draft genome assembly was about 56.2 Mb and included a mitochondrial genome contig. The predicted proteome contained 10,644 proteins, ~67 % of which appear to have clear orthologs in other species. The genome also contained more than 140,000 simple sequence repeat loci that may be useful for population-level studies. The mitochondrial genome contained 13 protein coding loci and 20 transfer RNAs. Hundreds of candidate salivary gland protein genes were identified by comparing the scabies mite predicted proteome with sialoproteins and transcripts identified in ticks and other hematophagous arthropods. These include serpins, ferritins, reprolysins, apyrases and new members of the macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) gene family. Numerous other genes coding for salivary proteins, metabolic enzymes, structural proteins, proteins that are potentially immune modulating, and vaccine candidates were identified. The genes encoding cysteine and serine protease paralogs as well as mu-type glutathione S-transferases are represented by gene clusters. S. scabiei possessed homologs for most of the 33 dust mite allergens.
Conclusion: The draft genome is useful for advancing our understanding of the host-parasite interaction, the biology of the mite and its phylogenetic relationship to other Acari. The identification of antigen-producing genes, candidate immune modulating proteins and pathways, and genes responsible for acaricide resistance offers opportunities for developing new methods for diagnosing, treating and preventing this disease.