Parasite neuromusculature and its utility as a drug target

Inter-phyla studies on neuropeptides: the potential for broad-spectrum anthelmintic and/or endectocide discovery

A. MOUSLEY a1c1, A. G. MAULE a1, D. W. HALTON a1 and N. J. MARKS a1
a1 Parasitology Research Group, School of Biology and Biochemistry, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, UK

Article author query
mousley a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
maule ag   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
halton dw   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
marks nj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Flatworm, nematode and arthropod parasites have proven their ability to develop resistance to currently available chemotherapeutics. The heavy reliance on chemotherapy and the ability of target species to develop resistance has prompted the search for novel drug targets. In view of its importance to parasite/pest survival, the neuromusculature of parasitic helminths and pest arthropod species remains an attractive target for the discovery of novel endectocide targets. Exploitation of the neuropeptidergic system in helminths and arthropods has been hampered by a limited understanding of the functional roles of individual peptides and the structure of endogenous targets, such as receptors. Basic research into these systems has the potential to facilitate target characterization and its offshoots (screen development and drug identification). Of particular interest to parasitologists is the fact that selected neuropeptide families are common to metazoan pest species (nematodes, platyhelminths and arthropods) and fulfil specific roles in the modulation of muscle function in each of the three phyla. This article reviews the inter-phyla activity of two peptide families, the FMRFamide-like peptides and allatostatins, on motor function in helminths and arthropods and discusses the potential of neuropeptide signalling as a target system that could uncover novel endectocidal agents.

Key Words: Arthropods; nematodes; platyhelminths; FMRFamide-like peptides; allatostatins.

c1 School of Biology and Biochemistry, Medical Biology Centre, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, UK. Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 2059. Fax: +44 (0)28 9097 5877. E-mail: