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Biomphalaria glabrata transcriptome: cDNA microarray profiling identifies resistant- and susceptible-specific gene expression in haemocytes from snail strains exposed to Schistosoma mansoni

Anne E Lockyer1, Jenny Spinks1, Richard A Kane1, Karl F Hoffmann24, Jennifer M Fitzpatrick25, David Rollinson1, Leslie R Noble3 and Catherine S Jones3*

Author Affiliations

1 Wolfson Wellcome Biomedical Laboratories, Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London, SW7 5BD, UK

2 Department of Pathology, Cambridge University, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge, UK

3 Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ, UK

4 Institute of Biological Sciences, Edward Llwyd Building, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3DA, UK

5 Department of Medicine, University of Southampton, Bassett Crescent East, Southampton, Hampshire SO16 7PX, UK

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:634  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-634

Published: 29 December 2008



Biomphalaria glabrata is an intermediate snail host for Schistosoma mansoni, one of the important schistosomes infecting man. B. glabrata/S. mansoni provides a useful model system for investigating the intimate interactions between host and parasite. Examining differential gene expression between S. mansoni-exposed schistosome-resistant and susceptible snail lines will identify genes and pathways that may be involved in snail defences.


We have developed a 2053 element cDNA microarray for B. glabrata containing clones from ORESTES (Open Reading frame ESTs) libraries, suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) libraries and clones identified in previous expression studies. Snail haemocyte RNA, extracted from parasite-challenged resistant and susceptible snails, 2 to 24 h post-exposure to S. mansoni, was hybridized to the custom made cDNA microarray and 98 differentially expressed genes or gene clusters were identified, 94 resistant-associated and 4 susceptible-associated. Quantitative PCR analysis verified the cDNA microarray results for representative transcripts. Differentially expressed genes were annotated and clustered using gene ontology (GO) terminology and Kyoto Encyclopaedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway analysis. 61% of the identified differentially expressed genes have no known function including the 4 susceptible strain-specific transcripts. Resistant strain-specific expression of genes implicated in innate immunity of invertebrates was identified, including hydrolytic enzymes such as cathepsin L, a cysteine proteinase involved in lysis of phagocytosed particles; metabolic enzymes such as ornithine decarboxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme in the production of polyamines, important in inflammation and infection processes, as well as scavenging damaging free radicals produced during production of reactive oxygen species; stress response genes such as HSP70; proteins involved in signalling, such as importin 7 and copine 1, cytoplasmic intermediate filament (IF) protein and transcription enzymes such as elongation factor 1α and EF-2.


Production of the first cDNA microarray for profiling gene expression in B. glabrata provides a foundation for expanding our understanding of pathways and genes involved in the snail internal defence system (IDS). We demonstrate resistant strain-specific expression of genes potentially associated with the snail IDS, ranging from signalling and inflammation responses through to lysis of proteinacous products (encapsulated sporocysts or phagocytosed parasite components) and processing/degradation of these targeted products by ubiquitination.