Whipworm genome and dual-species transcriptome analyses provide molecular insights into an intimate host-parasite interaction


Whipworms are common soil-transmitted helminths that cause debilitating chronic infections in man. These nematodes are only distantly related to Caenorhabditis elegans and have evolved to occupy an unusual niche, tunneling through epithelial cells of the large intestine. We report here the whole-genome sequences of the human-infective Trichuris trichiura and the mouse laboratory model Trichuris muris. On the basis of whole-transcriptome analyses, we identify many genes that are expressed in a sex- or life stage-specific manner and characterize the transcriptional landscape of a morphological region with unique biological adaptations, namely, bacillary band and stichosome, found only in whipworms and related parasites. Using RNA sequencing data from whipworm-infected mice, we describe the regulated T helper 1 (TH1)-like immune response of the chronically infected cecum in unprecedented detail. In silico screening identified numerous new potential drug targets against trichuriasis. Together, these genomes and associated functional data elucidate key aspects of the molecular host-parasite interactions that define chronic whipworm infection.

In Nature Genetics 46:693–700
James Cotton
James Cotton
Senior Staff Scientist

My research interests are in the genomics, and particularly population genomics of parasites, particularly those that cause neglected tropical diseases