ABSTRACT

To analyze the response of the snail Physella acuta to Echinostoma paraensei, a compatible digenetic trematode, Illumina RNA-seq data were collected from snails with early infection (5 snails at 2 days post-exposure [DPE]) and established infection (4 snails, 8 DPE), and 7 control (unexposed) snails. A reference transcriptome (325,563 transcripts, including 98% of eukaryotic universal single-copy orthologs; BUSCO) and a draft P. acuta genome (employing available genomic Illumina reads; 799,945 scaffolds, includes 88% BUSCO genes) were assembled to guide RNA-seq analyses. Parasite exposure of P. acuta led to 10,195 differentially expressed (DE) genes at 2 DPE and 8,876 DE genes at 8 DPE with only 18% of up-regulated and 22% of down-regulated sequences shared between these time points. Gene ontology (GO) analysis yielded functional annotation of only 1.2% of DE genes but did not indicate major changes in biological activities of P. acuta between 2 and 8 DPE. Increased insights were achieved by analysis of expression profiles of 460 immune-relevant DE transcripts, identified by BLAST and InterProScan. Physella acuta has expanded gene families that encode immune-relevant domains, including CD109/TEP, GTPase IMAP, Limulus agglutination factor (dermatopontin), FReD (≥82 sequences with fibrinogen-related domains), and transcripts that combine C-type lectin (C-LECT) and C1q domains, novel among metazoa. Notably, P. acuta expressed sequences from these immune gene families at all time points, but the assemblages of unique transcripts from particular immune gene families differed between 2 and 8 DPE. The shift in profiles of DE immune genes, from early exposure to parasite establishment, suggests that compatible P. acuta initially respond to infection but switch to express immune genes that likely are less effective against E. paraensei but counter other types of (opportunistic) pathogens and parasites. We propose that the latter expression profile is part of an extended phenotype of E. paraensei, imposed upon P. acuta through parasite manipulation of the host, following successful parasite establishment in the snail after 2 DPE.

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