Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Survey of transcripts expressed by the invasive juvenile stage of the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica

Martín Cancela12, Natalia Ruétalo3, Nicolás Dell'Oca2, Edileuza da Silva1, Pablo Smircich2, Gabriel Rinaldi2, Leda Roche2, Carlos Carmona4, Fernando Alvarez-Valín3, Arnaldo Zaha1 and José F Tort2*

Author affiliations

1 Departamento de Biologia Molecular e Biotecnologia, Instituto de Biociências e Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia Celular e Molecular, Centro de Biotecnologia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, UFRGS, Porto Alegre, Brazil

2 Departamento de Genética, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de la República, UDELAR, Montevideo, Uruguay

3 Laboratorio de Biomatemáticas, Instituto de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, UDELAR, Montevideo, Uruguay

4 Unidad de Biología Parasitaria, Instituto de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, UDELAR, Montevideo, Uruguay

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2010, 11:227  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-227

Published: 7 April 2010



The common liver fluke Fasciola hepatica is the agent of a zoonosis with significant economic consequences in livestock production worldwide, and increasing relevance to human health in developing countries. Although flukicidal drugs are available, re-infection and emerging resistance are demanding new efficient and inexpensive control strategies. Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the host-parasite interaction provide relevant clues in this search, while enlightening the physiological adaptations to parasitism. Genomics and transcriptomics are still in their infancy in F. hepatica, with very scarce information available from the invasive newly excysted juveniles (NEJ). Here we provide an initial glimpse to the transcriptomics of the NEJ, the first stage to interact with the mammalian host.


We catalogued more than 500 clusters generated from the analysis of F. hepatica juvenile expressed sequence tags (EST), several of them not detected in the adult stage. A set of putative F. hepatica specific transcripts, and a group of sequences conserved exclusively in flatworms were identified. These novel sequences along with a set of parasite transcripts absent in the host genomes are putative new targets for future anti-parasitic drugs or vaccine development.

Comparisons of the F. hepatica sequences with other metazoans genomes or EST databases were consistent with the basal positioning of flatworms in the bilaterian phylogeny. Notably, GC content, codon usage and amino acid frequencies are remarkably different in Schistosomes to F. hepatica and other trematodes.

Functional annotation of predicted proteins showed a general representation of diverse biological functions. Besides proteases and antioxidant enzymes expected to participate in the early interaction with the host, various proteins involved in gene expression, protein synthesis, cell signaling and mitochondrial enzymes were identified. Differential expression of secreted protease gene family members between juvenile and adult stages may respond to different needs during host colonization.


The knowledge of the genes expressed by the invasive stage of Fasciola hepatica is a starting point to unravel key aspects of this parasite's biology. The integration of the emerging transcriptomics, and proteomics data and the advent of functional genomics tools in this organism are positioning F. hepatica as an interesting model for trematode biology.