Tissue-specific transcriptome analyses provide new insights into GPCR signalling in adult Schistosoma mansoni


Schistosomes are blood-dwelling trematodes with global impact on human and animal health. Because medical treatment is currently based on a single drug, praziquantel, there is urgent need for the development of alternative control strategies. The Schistosoma mansoni genome project provides a platform to study and connect the genetic repertoire of schistosomes to specific biological functions essential for successful parasitism. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) form the largest superfamily of transmembrane receptors throughout the Eumetazoan phyla, including platyhelminths. Due to their involvement in diverse biological processes, their pharmacological importance, and proven druggability, GPCRs are promising targets for new anthelmintics. However, to identify candidate receptors, a more detailed understanding of the roles of GPCR signalling in schistosome biology is essential. An updated phylogenetic analysis of the S. mansoni GPCR genome (GPCRome) is presented, facilitated by updated genome data that allowed a more precise annotation of GPCRs. Additionally, we review the current knowledge on GPCR signalling in this parasite and provide new insights into the potential roles of GPCRs in schistosome reproduction based on the findings of a recent tissue-specific transcriptomic study in paired and unpaired S. mansoni. According to the current analysis, GPCRs contribute to gonad-specific functions but also to nongonad, pairing-dependent processes. The latter may regulate gonad-unrelated functions during the multifaceted male-female interaction. Finally, we compare the schistosome GPCRome to that of another parasitic trematode, Fasciola, and discuss the importance of GPCRs to basic and applied research. Phylogenetic analyses display GPCR diversity in free-living and parasitic platyhelminths and suggest diverse functions in schistosomes. Although their roles need to be substantiated by functional studies in the future, the data support the selection of GPCR candidates for basic and applied studies, invigorating the exploitation of this important receptor class for drug discovery against schistosomes but also other trematodes.

In PLOS Pathogens
Nic Wheeler
Nic Wheeler
Postdoctoral Fellow

My research interests include neglected tropical diseases, vector-borne helminths, and genomics.