Open Access Research

The genome and developmental transcriptome of the strongylid nematode Haemonchus contortus

Erich M Schwarz123, Pasi K Korhonen2, Bronwyn E Campbell2, Neil D Young2, Aaron R Jex2, Abdul Jabbar2, Ross S Hall2, Alinda Mondal2, Adina C Howe4, Jason Pell5, Andreas Hofmann6, Peter R Boag7, Xing-Quan Zhu8, T Ryan Gregory9, Alex Loukas10, Brian A Williams1, Igor Antoshechkin1, C Titus Brown45, Paul W Sternberg1 and Robin B Gasser2*

Author affiliations

1 Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA

2 Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Melbourne, Corner of Flemington Road and Park Drive, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia

3 Current address: Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14853-2703, USA

4 Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824, USA

5 Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824, USA

6 Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies, Griffith University, N75 Don Young Road, Brisbane Innovation Park, Nathan, Queensland 4111, Australia

7 Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia

8 State Key Laboratory of Veterinary Etiological Biology, Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, 1 Xujiaping, Yanchangbu, Lanzhou, Gansu Province 730046, PR China

9 Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1

10 Center for Biodiscovery and Molecular Development of Therapeutics, Queensland Tropical Health Alliance, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia

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Citation and License

Genome Biology 2013, 14:R89  doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-8-r89

Published: 28 August 2013

Abstract

Background

The barber's pole worm, Haemonchus contortus, is one of the most economically important parasites of small ruminants worldwide. Although this parasite can be controlled using anthelmintic drugs, resistance against most drugs in common use has become a widespread problem. We provide a draft of the genome and the transcriptomes of all key developmental stages of H. contortus to support biological and biotechnological research areas of this and related parasites.

Results

The draft genome of H. contortus is 320 Mb in size and encodes 23,610 protein-coding genes. On a fundamental level, we elucidate transcriptional alterations taking place throughout the life cycle, characterize the parasite's gene silencing machinery, and explore molecules involved in development, reproduction, host-parasite interactions, immunity, and disease. The secretome of H. contortus is particularly rich in peptidases linked to blood-feeding activity and interactions with host tissues, and a diverse array of molecules is involved in complex immune responses. On an applied level, we predict drug targets and identify vaccine molecules.

Conclusions

The draft genome and developmental transcriptome of H. contortus provide a major resource to the scientific community for a wide range of genomic, genetic, proteomic, metabolomic, evolutionary, biological, ecological, and epidemiological investigations, and a solid foundation for biotechnological outcomes, including new anthelmintics, vaccines and diagnostic tests. This first draft genome of any strongylid nematode paves the way for a rapid acceleration in our understanding of a wide range of socioeconomically important parasites of one of the largest nematode orders.