Trypanosoma cruzi dysregulates expression profile of piRNAs in primary human cardiac fibroblasts during early infection phase

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2023 Mar 2;13:1083379. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2023.1083379. eCollection 2023.


Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas Disease, causes severe morbidity, mortality, and economic burden worldwide. Though originally endemic to Central and South America, globalization has led to increased parasite presence in most industrialized countries. About 40% of infected individuals will develop cardiovascular, neurological, and/or gastrointestinal pathologies. Accumulating evidence suggests that the parasite induces alterations in host gene expression profiles in order to facilitate infection and pathogenesis. The role of regulatory gene expression machinery during T. cruzi infection, particularly small noncoding RNAs, has yet to be elucidated. In this study, we aim to evaluate dysregulation of a class of sncRNAs called piRNAs during early phase of T. cruzi infection in primary human cardiac fibroblasts by RNA-Seq. We subsequently performed in silico analysis to predict piRNA-mRNA interactions. We validated the expression of these selected piRNAs and their targets during early parasite infection phase by stem loop qPCR and qPCR, respectively. We found about 26,496,863 clean reads (92.72%) which mapped to the human reference genome. During parasite challenge, 441 unique piRNAs were differentially expressed. Of these differentially expressed piRNAs, 29 were known and 412 were novel. In silico analysis showed several of these piRNAs were computationally predicted to target and potentially regulate expression of genes including SMAD2, EGR1, ICAM1, CX3CL1, and CXCR2, which have been implicated in parasite infection, pathogenesis, and various cardiomyopathies. Further evaluation of the function of these individual piRNAs in gene regulation and expression will enhance our understanding of early molecular mechanisms contributing to infection and pathogenesis. Our findings here suggest that piRNAs play important roles in infectious disease pathogenesis and can serve as potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets.

Keywords: Chagas disease; Trypanosoma cruzi; fibrosis; human cardiac fibroblasts; parasite pathogenesis; piRNAs; piRNome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chagas Disease* / parasitology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Heart
  • Humans
  • Piwi-Interacting RNA
  • Trypanosoma cruzi* / genetics


  • Piwi-Interacting RNA