The Biomphalaria glabrata DNA methylation machinery displays spatial tissue expression, is differentially active in distinct snail populations and is modulated by interactions with Schistosoma mansoni

Authors Organisations
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0005246
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2017
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The debilitating human disease schistosomiasis is caused by infection with schistosome parasites that maintain a complex lifecycle alternating between definitive (human) and intermediate (snail) hosts. While much is known about how the definitive host responds to schistosome infection, there is comparably less information available describing the snail’s response to infection.

Methodology/Principle findings
Here, using information recently revealed by sequencing of the Biomphalaria glabrata intermediate host genome, we provide evidence that the predicted core snail DNA methylation machinery components are associated with both intra-species reproduction processes and inter-species interactions. Firstly, methyl-CpG binding domain protein (Bgmbd2/3) and DNA methyltransferase 1 (Bgdnmt1) genes are transcriptionally enriched in gonadal compared to somatic tissues with 5-azacytidine (5-AzaC) treatment significantly inhibiting oviposition. Secondly, elevated levels of 5-methyl cytosine (5mC), DNA methyltransferase activity and 5mC binding in pigmented hybrid- compared to inbred (NMRI)- B. glabrata populations indicate a role for the snail’s DNA methylation machinery in maintaining hybrid vigour or heterosis. Thirdly, locus-specific detection of 5mC by bisulfite (BS)-PCR revealed 5mC within an exonic region of a housekeeping protein-coding gene (Bg14-3-3), supporting previous in silico predictions and whole genome BS-Seq analysis of this species’ genome. Finally, we provide preliminary evidence for parasite-mediated host epigenetic reprogramming in the schistosome/snail system, as demonstrated by the increase in Bgdnmt1 and Bgmbd2/3 transcript abundance following Bge (B. glabrata embryonic cell line) exposure to parasite larval transformation products (LTP).

The presence of a functional DNA methylation machinery in B. glabrata as well as the modulation of these gene products in response to schistosome products, suggests a vital role for DNA methylation during snail development/oviposition and parasite interactions. Further deciphering the role of this epigenetic process during Biomphalaria/Schistosoma co-evolutionary biology may reveal key factors associated with disease transmission and, moreover, enable the discovery of novel lifecycle intervention strategies