We investigated the effect of Schistosoma japonicum adenylate kinase 1 (Sjak1) on the growth and development of schistosomula. Quantitative real-time PCR showed that Sjak1 mRNA was expressed in 3-, 10-, 14-, 18-, and 21-day-old schistosomula, and its levels increased gradually with the development of S. japonicum. Using immunohistochemical techniques, ak1 protein was found to be mainly distributed in the tegument and some parenchymal tissues of the schistosomula. Double-stranded RNA-mediated knockdowns of ak1 decreased ak1 mRNA transcripts by more than 90%, and western blot results showed that expression of ak1 protein was decreased by 66%. Scanning electron microscopy following the RNA-mediated ak1 knockdown showed that the sensory papillae did not develop. Transmission electron microscopy showed a lower mean thickness of the tegument in the Sjak1 interference group than in the negative control group. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick-end labeling suggested higher apoptosis in the interference group than the negative control group. These results showed that ak1 may be involved in the growth and development of S. japonicum schistosomula and especially in the development of the integument. Consequently, ak1 may be a potential target in developing prevention methods for schistosomiasis in the future.

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