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Deciphering the role of miR-71 in Echinococcus multilocularis early development in vitro.

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Pérez, Matías Gastón 
Spiliotis, Markus 
Rego, Natalia 
Macchiaroli, Natalia 
Kamenetzky, Laura 


Echinococcosis represents a major public health problem worldwide and is considered a neglected disease by the World Health Organization. The etiological agents are Echinococcus tapeworms, which display elaborate developmental traits that imply a complex control of gene expression. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small regulatory RNAs, are involved in the regulation of many biological processes such as development and metabolism. They act through the repression of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) usually by binding to the 3' untranslated region (3'UTR). Previously, we described the miRNome of several Echinococcus species and found that miRNAs are highly expressed in all life cycle stages, suggesting an important role in gene expression regulation. However, studying the role of miRNAs in helminth biology remains a challenge. To develop methodology for functional analysis of miRNAs in tapeworms, we performed miRNA knockdown experiments in primary cell cultures of Echinococcus multilocularis, which mimic the development of metacestode vesicles from parasite stem cells in vitro. First, we analysed the miRNA repertoire of E. multilocularis primary cells by small RNA-seq and found that miR-71, a bilaterian miRNA absent in vertebrate hosts, is one of the top five most expressed miRNAs. Using genomic information and bioinformatic algorithms for miRNA binding prediction, we found a high number of potential miR-71 targets in E. multilocularis. Inhibition of miRNAs can be achieved by transfection of antisense oligonucleotides (anti-miRs) that block miRNA function. To this end, we evaluated a variety of chemically modified anti-miRs for miR-71 knockdown. Electroporation of primary cells with 2'-O-methyl modified anti-miR-71 led to significantly reduced miR-71 levels. Transcriptomic analyses showed that several predicted miR-71 targets were up-regulated in anti-miR-treated primary cells, including genes potentially involved in parasite development, host parasite interaction, and several genes of as yet unknown function. Notably, miR-71-silenced primary cell cultures showed a strikingly different phenotype from control cells and did not develop into fully mature metacestodes. These findings indicate an important function of miR-71 in Echinococcus development and provide, for the first time, methodology to functionally study miRNAs in a tapeworm.



Animals, Cells, Cultured, Computational Biology, Echinococcus multilocularis, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, MicroRNAs, Stem Cells

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PLoS Negl Trop Dis

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ERANET-LAC (ELAC2015/T080544)
Fondo para la Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (PICT 2013-2121)
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (PIP 2015)
Universidad de Buenos Aires (CAPGBA-CAPES 070/30)
Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva (SNCAD ID 924)
Wellcome Trust (WT 098051)