Molecular Helminthology Laboratory Schistosome Projects

A large portion of the Molecular Helminthology Laboratory is currently engaged in research projects on schistosomes. The schistosome surface is the site of intimate host/parasite interaction; nutrients are taken up across the body surface of parasites in the bloodstream and environmental sensing occurs at the surface. There is great interest in identifying and characterizing molecules at the host-exposed parasite surface for two main reasons:

  1. to gain a better understanding of surface biochemistry and cell biology and;
  2. to identify molecules accessible to host immune effectors at the parasite surface as targets for vaccines to elicit protective immunity.

The laboratory has long history of research work characterizing the schistosome host-interactive surface and this work continues with a focus in two areas:

Characterization of Host-interactive Schistosome Surface Proteins
Published proteomic data together with bioinformatic analysis has identified tegumental membrane proteins that we hypothesize are essential for schistosome survival in the mammalian host. Currently the Molecular Helminthology Laboratory is investing much of its effort to study schistosome membrane proteins that we predict are necessary to protect the parasites from host immune and hemostatic responses. Recombinant antibody reagents are being developed and recombinant eukaryotic host expression systems employed for the functional characterization of these putative schistosome immune modulators. Hypotheses that result from these studies are subsequently tested in schistosomes using RNAi.
RNA Interference
The Molecular Helminthology Laboratory first described RNA interference (RNAi, gene silencing) in schistosomes in 2003. The lab is currently optimizing RNAi protocols for use with different schistosome life cycle stages and using the methodology for functional genomics with particular emphasis on the host-interactive parasite surface. In addition, we are using bioinformatic analysis to guide studies seeking to characterize the molecular machinery that enables RNAi in schistosomes.

For more information about the Molecular Helminthology Laboratory's research with this model species please see the Schistosome Publications page.