Background: Parascaris univalens is a pathogenic parasite of foals and yearlings worldwide. In recent years, Parascaris spp. worms have developed resistance to several of the commonly used anthelmintics, though currently the mechanisms behind this development are unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate the transcriptional responses in adult P. univalens worms after in vitro exposure to different concentrations of three anthelmintic drugs, focusing on drug targets and drug metabolising pathways.
Methods: Adult worms were collected from the intestines of two foals at slaughter. The foals were naturally infected and had never been treated with anthelmintics. Worms were incubated in cell culture media containing different concentrations of either ivermectin (10-9 M, 10-11 M, 10-13 M), pyrantel citrate (10-6 M, 10-8 M, 10-10 M), thiabendazole (10-5 M, 10-7 M, 10-9 M) or without anthelmintics (control) at 37 °C for 24 h. After incubation, the viability of the worms was assessed and RNA extracted from the anterior region of 36 worms and sequenced on an Illumina NovaSeq 6000 system.
Results: All worms were alive at the end of the incubation but showed varying degrees of viability depending on the drug and concentration used. Differential expression (Padj < 0.05 and log2 fold change ≥ 1 or ≤ - 1) analysis showed similarities and differences in the transcriptional response after exposure to the different drug classes. Candidate genes upregulated or downregulated in drug exposed worms include members of the phase I metabolic pathway short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase superfamily (SDR), flavin containing monooxygenase superfamily (FMO) and cytochrome P450-family (CYP), as well as members of the membrane transporters major facilitator superfamily (MFS) and solute carrier superfamily (SLC). Generally, different targets of the anthelmintics used were found to be upregulated and downregulated in an unspecific pattern after drug exposure, apart from the GABA receptor subunit lgc-37, which was upregulated only in worms exposed to 10-9 M of ivermectin.
Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first time the expression of lgc-37 and members of the FMO, SDR, MFS and SLC superfamilies have been described in P. univalens and future work should be focused on characterising these candidate genes to further explore their potential involvement in drug metabolism and anthelmintic resistance.
Keywords: Anthelmintic resistance; Differential expression; RNA sequencing; Transcriptome; lgc-37.