Many anthelmintics target the neuromuscular system, in particular by interfering with signaling mediated by classical neurotransmitters. Although peptidergic signaling has been proposed as a novel target for anthelmintics, current knowledge of the neuropeptide complement of many helminth groups is still limited, especially for parasitic flatworms (cestodes, trematodes, and monogeneans). In this work, we have characterized the neuropeptide complement of the model cestode Hymenolepis microstoma. Peptidomic characterization of adults of H. microstoma validated many of the neuropeptide precursor (npp) genes previously predicted in silico, and identified novel neuropeptides that are conserved in parasitic flatworms. Most neuropeptides from parasitic flatworms lack significant similarity to those from other animals, confirming the uniqueness of their peptidergic signaling. Analysis of gene expression of ten npp genes by in situ hybridization confirmed that all of them are expressed in the nervous system and identified cryptic features, including the first evidence of dorsoventral asymmetry, as well as a new population of peripheral peptidergic cells that appears to be conserved in the trematode Schistosoma mansoni. Finally, we characterized in greater detail Attachin, an SIFamide homolog. Although its expression is largely restricted to the longitudinal nerve cords and cerebral commissure in H. microstoma, it shows widespread localization in the larval nervous system of Echinococcus multilocularis and Mesocestoides corti. Exogenous addition of a peptide corresponding to the highly conserved C-terminus of Attachin stimulated motility and attachment of M. corti larvae. Altogether, this work provides a robust experimental foothold for the characterization of peptidergic signaling in parasitic flatworms. Cover Image for this issue: https://doi.org/10.1111/jnc.15418.
Keywords: SIFamide; attachment; peptidergic signaling; peptidomics; sucker; tapeworm.
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