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Open Access Open Badges Research article

De novo assembly and transcriptome characterization: novel insights into the natural resistance mechanisms of Microtus fortis against Schistosoma japonicum

Yuan Hu12, Yuxin Xu12, Weiyuan Lu12, Zhongying Yuan12, Hong Quan12, Yujuan Shen12 and Jianping Cao12*

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute of Parasitic Diseases, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention; Key Laboratory of Parasite and Vector Biology, MOH, Shanghai 200025, China

2 WHO Collaborating Center for Malaria, Schistosomiasis and Filariasis, Shanghai 200025, China

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:417  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-417

Published: 2 June 2014



Microtus fortis is a non-permissive host of Schistosoma japonicum. It has natural resistance against schistosomes, although the precise resistance mechanisms remain unclear. The paucity of genetic information for M. fortis limits the use of available immunological methods. Thus, studies based on high-throughput sequencing technologies are required to obtain information about resistance mechanisms against S. japonicum.


Using Illumina single-end technology, a de novo assembly of the M. fortis transcriptome produced 67,751 unigenes with an average length of 868 nucleotides. Comparisons were made between M. fortis before and after infection with S. japonicum using RNA-seq quantification analysis. The highest number of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) occurred two weeks after infection, and the highest number of down-regulated DEGs occurred three weeks after infection. Simultaneously, the strongest pathological changes in the liver were observed at week two. Gene ontology terms and pathways related to the DEGs revealed that up-regulated transcripts were involved in metabolism, immunity and inflammatory responses. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis showed that patterns of gene expression were consistent with RNA-seq results.


After infection with S. japonicum, a defensive reaction in M. fortis commenced rapidly, increasing dramatically in the second week, and gradually decreasing three weeks after infection. The obtained M. fortis transcriptome and DEGs profile data demonstrated that natural and adaptive immune responses, play an important role in M. fortis immunity to S. japonicum. These findings provide a better understanding of the natural resistance mechanisms of M. fortis against schistosomes.

Microtus fortis; Schistosoma japonicum; Non-permissive host; RNA-seq