Transcriptomic Analysis of the Salivary Gland of Medicinal Leech Hirudo Nipponia

PLoS One. 2018 Oct 19;13(10):e0205875. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205875. eCollection 2018.


Hirudo nipponia (known as Shui Zhi in Chinese) is a well-known Chinese medicine with numerous active ingredients in its body, especially in its saliva. This native Chinese blood-sucking leech has been used for therapeutic purposes since before 100 AD. Modern Chinese physicians use it for a wide range of diseases. Genomic data and molecular information about the pharmacologically active substances produced by this medicinal leech are presently unavailable despite this organism's medicinal importance. In this study, we performed transcriptome profiling of the salivary glands of medicinal leech H. nipponia using the Illumina platform. In total, 84,657,362 clean reads were assembled into 50,535 unigenes. The obtained unigenes were compared to public databases. Furthermore, a unigene sequence similarity search and comparisons with the whole transcriptome of medical leech were performed to identify potential proteins. Finally, more than 21 genes were predicted to be involved in anticoagulatory, antithrombotic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antitumor processes, which might play important roles in the treatment of various diseases. This study is the first analysis of a sialotranscriptome in H. nipponia. The transcriptome profile will shed light on its genetic background and provide a useful tool to deepen our understanding of the medical value of H. nipponia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anticoagulants
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • China
  • DNA, Complementary / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Library
  • Genomics
  • Hirudo medicinalis / metabolism*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Phylogeny
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Salivary Glands / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Transcriptome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anticoagulants
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA, Complementary

Grant support

This study was founded by the Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Project of Chongqing Health and Family Planning Commission in China (zy201602097 to PS), Natural Science Foundation of Chongqing (cstc2018jcyjAX0674 to PS), Science and Technology Innovation Funds by the Chongqing Science and Technology Commission of China (cstc2016shmszx1247 to SC), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Chongqing Academy of Chinese Material Medica (2016csts-jbky-01910 to ZL). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.