Nematode ascarosides attenuate mammalian type 2 inflammatory responses

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Mar 1;119(9):e2108686119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2108686119.


Mounting evidence suggests that nematode infection can protect against disorders of immune dysregulation. Administration of live parasites or their excretory/secretory (ES) products has shown therapeutic effects across a wide range of animal models for immune disorders, including asthma. Human clinical trials of live parasite ingestion for the treatment of immune disorders have produced promising results, yet concerns persist regarding the ingestion of pathogenic organisms and the immunogenicity of protein components. Despite extensive efforts to define the active components of ES products, no small molecules with immune regulatory activity have been identified from nematodes. Here we show that an evolutionarily conserved family of nematode pheromones called ascarosides strongly modulates the pulmonary immune response and reduces asthma severity in mice. Screening the inhibitory effects of ascarosides produced by animal-parasitic nematodes on the development of asthma in an ovalbumin (OVA) murine model, we found that administration of nanogram quantities of ascr#7 prevented the development of lung eosinophilia, goblet cell metaplasia, and airway hyperreactivity. Ascr#7 suppressed the production of IL-33 from lung epithelial cells and reduced the number of memory-type pathogenic Th2 cells and ILC2s in the lung, both key drivers of the pathology of asthma. Our findings suggest that the mammalian immune system recognizes ascarosides as an evolutionarily conserved molecular signature of parasitic nematodes. The identification of a nematode-produced small molecule underlying the well-documented immunomodulatory effects of ES products may enable the development of treatment strategies for allergic diseases.

Keywords: ascarosides; asthma; mouse model; nematode; small molecules.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Hypersensitivity / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / prevention & control*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Nematoda / chemistry*
  • Nematoda / pathogenicity
  • Ovalbumin / adverse effects
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology
  • Trachea / drug effects*
  • Trachea / physiopathology


  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Ovalbumin