1 NCBS-Instem-Cambridge Fellowship, UK
DiscussionSchistosomes are parasitic helminths that cause schistosomiasis, a disease affecting circa 200 million people, primarily in underprivileged regions of the world. Schistosoma mansoni is the most experimentally tractable schistosome species due to its ease of propagation in the laboratory and the high quality of its genome assembly and annotation. Although there is growing interest in microRNAs (miRNAs) in trematodes, little is known about the role these molecules play in the context of developmental processes. We use the completely unaware ªmiRNA-blindº bioinformatics tool Sylamer to analyse the 3'-UTRs of transcripts differentially expressed between the juvenile and adult stages. We show that the miR-277/4989 family target sequence is the only one significantly enriched in the transition from juvenile to adult worms. Further, we describe a novel miRNA, sma-miR-4989 showing that its proximal genomic location to sma-miR-277 suggests that they form a miRNA cluster, and we propose hairpin folds for both miRNAs compatible with the miRNA pathway. In addition, we found that expression of sma-miR-277/4989 miRNAs are up-regulated in adults while their predicted targets are characterised by significant down-regulation in paired adult worms but remain largely undisturbed in immature ªvirginº females. Finally, we show that sma-miR-4989 is expressed in tegumental cells located proximal to the oesophagus gland and also distributed throughout the male worms' body. Our results indicate that sma-miR-277/4989 might play a dominant role in post-transcriptional regulation during development of juvenile worms and suggest an important role in the sexual development of female schistosomes.