A single-cell RNA-seq atlas of Schistosoma mansoni identifies a key regulator of blood feeding

Science. 2020 Sep 25;369(6511):1644-1649. doi: 10.1126/science.abb7709.


Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease that infects 240 million people. With no vaccines and only one drug available, new therapeutic targets are needed. The causative agents, schistosomes, are intravascular flatworm parasites that feed on blood and lay eggs, resulting in pathology. The function of the parasite's various tissues in successful parasitism are poorly understood, hindering identification of therapeutic targets. Using single-cell RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), we characterize 43,642 cells from the adult schistosome and identify 68 distinct cell populations, including specialized stem cells that maintain the parasite's blood-digesting gut. These stem cells express the gene hnf4, which is required for gut maintenance, blood feeding, and pathology in vivo. Together, these data provide molecular insights into the organ systems of this important pathogen and identify potential therapeutic targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atlases as Topic
  • Blood / parasitology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Helminth Proteins / physiology*
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 / genetics
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4 / physiology*
  • Male
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA-Seq
  • Schistosoma mansoni / genetics
  • Schistosoma mansoni / physiology*
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni / blood*
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni / parasitology*
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Helminth Proteins
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.0k6djh9xk