Background: The TGF-β signalling pathway plays a key role in regulating dauer formation in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and previous work has shown that TGF-β receptors are involved in parasitic nematodes. Here, we explored the structure and function of a TGF-β type II receptor homologue in the TGF-β signalling pathway in Haemonchus contortus, a highly pathogenic, haematophagous parasitic nematode.
Methodology/principal findings: Amino acid sequence and phylogenetic analyses revealed that the protein, called Hc-TGFBR2 (encoded by the gene Hc-tgfbr2), is a member of TGF-β type II receptor family and contains conserved functional domains, both in the extracellular region containing cysteine residues that form a characteristic feature (CXCX4C) of TGF-β type II receptor and in the intracellular regions containing a serine/threonine kinase domain. The Hc-tgfbr2 gene was transcribed in all key developmental stages of H. contortus, with particularly high levels in the infective third-stage larvae (L3s) and male adults. Immunohistochemical results revealed that Hc-TGFBR2 was expressed in the intestine, ovary and eggs within the uterus of female adults, and also in the testes of male adults of H. contortus. Double-stranded RNA interference (RNAi) in this nematode by soaking induced a marked decrease in transcription of Hc-tgfbr2 and in development from the exsheathed L3 to the fourth-stage larva (L4) in vitro.
Conclusions/significance: These results indicate that Hc-TGFBR2 plays an important role in governing developmental processes in H. contortus via the TGF-β signalling pathway, particularly in the transition from the free-living to the parasitic stages.