Protein and small non-coding RNA-enriched extracellular vesicles are released by the pathogenic blood fluke Schistosoma mansoni

Fanny C Nowacki, Martin T Swain, Oleg I Klychnikov, Umar Niazi, Alasdair Ivens, Juan F Quintana, Paul J Hensbergen, Cornelis H Hokke, Amy H. Buck, Karl F Hoffmann

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BACKGROUND: Penetration of skin, migration through tissues and establishment of long-lived intravascular partners require Schistosoma parasites to successfully manipulate definitive host defences. While previous studies of larval schistosomula have postulated a function for excreted/secreted (E/S) products in initiating these host-modulatory events, the role of extracellular vesicles (EVs) has yet to be considered. Here, using preparatory ultracentrifugation as well as methodologies to globally analyse both proteins and small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs), we conducted the first characterization of Schistosoma mansoni schistosomula EVs and their potential host-regulatory cargos.

RESULTS: Transmission electron microscopy analysis of EVs isolated from schistosomula in vitro cultures revealed the presence of numerous, 30-100 nm sized exosome-like vesicles. Proteomic analysis of these vesicles revealed a core set of 109 proteins, including homologs to those previously found enriched in other eukaryotic EVs, as well as hypothetical proteins of high abundance and currently unknown function. Characterization of E/S sncRNAs found within and outside of schistosomula EVs additionally identified the presence of potential gene-regulatory miRNAs (35 known and 170 potentially novel miRNAs) and tRNA-derived small RNAs (tsRNAs; nineteen 5' tsRNAs and fourteen 3' tsRNAs).

CONCLUSIONS: The identification of S. mansoni EVs and the combinatorial protein/sncRNA characterization of their cargo signifies that an important new participant in the complex biology underpinning schistosome/host interactions has now been discovered. Further work defining the role of these schistosomula EVs and the function/stability of intra- and extra-vesicular sncRNA components presents tremendous opportunities for developing novel schistosomiasis diagnostics or interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28665
JournalJournal of Extracellular Vesicles
Publication statusPublished - 05 Oct 2015


  • extracellular vesicles
  • small non-coding RNAs
  • miRNAs
  • tsRNAs
  • proteome
  • Schistosoma mansoni
  • platyhelminth


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