a1 Institute for Parasitology, Justus-Liebig-University, 35392 Giessen, Germany
a2 Unité Inserm 547, Institut Pasteur, 1 rue du Pr Calmette, 59019 LILLE Cedex, France
Among the topics of considerable interest concerning our understanding of the unusual biology of schistosomes is the sexual maturation of the female. The identification of genes coding for signal transduction proteins controlling essential steps of the pairing-dependent differentiation of the reproductive organs, vitellarium and ovary will help to substantiate our knowledge about this unique parasite. Furthermore, such signalling proteins could be potential targets to interfere with the development of this parasite to combat schistosomiasis since its pathology is caused by the eggs. This review summarises first post-genomic steps to elucidate the function of gonad-specific signalling molecules which were identified by homology-based cloning strategies, by in silico identification or by yeast two-hybrid interaction analyses, using a combination of novel techniques. These include the in vitro culture of adult schistosomes, their treatment with chemical inhibitors to block enzyme activity, the use of RNAi to silence gene function post-transcriptionally, and confocal laser scanning microscopy to study the morphological consequences of these experimental approaches. Finally, we propose a first model of protein networks that are active in the ovary regulating mitogenic activity and differentiation. Some of these molecules are also active in the testes of males, probably fulfilling similar roles as in the ovary.
(Received May 29 2009)
(Revised December 16 2009)
(Accepted December 17 2009)
(Online publication February 18 2010)
c1 Corresponding author: Christoph G. Grevelding, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Institute for Parasitology, Rudolf-Buchheim-Str. 2, 35392 Giessen, Germany. Fax: +49 641 99 38469. E-mail: Christoph.Grevelding@vetmed.uni-giessen.de