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BackgroundAscaris lumbricoides causes human ascariasis, the most prevalent helminth disease, infecting approximately 1 billion individuals globally. In 2019 the global disease burden was estimated to be 754,000 DALYs and resulted in 2090 deaths. In the absence of a vaccination strategy, treatment of ascariasis has relied on anthelminthic chemotherapy, but drug resistance is a concern. The propensity for reinfection is also a major challenge to disease control; female worms lay up to 200,000 eggs daily, which contaminate surrounding environments and remain viable for years, resulting in high transmission rates. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of reproductive processes, including control of egg production, spermatogenesis, oogenesis and embryogenesis, will drive the development of new drugs and/or vaccine targets for future ascariasis control.MethodsTranscriptome profiles of discrete reproductive and somatic tissue samples were generated from adult male and female worms using Illumina HiSeq with 2 × 150 bp paired-end sequencing. Male tissues included: testis germinal zone, testis part of vas deferens, seminal vesicle and somatic tissue. Female tissues included: ovary germinal zone, ovary part of the oviduct, uterus and somatic tissue. Differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified from the fragments per kilobases per million reads (FPKM) profiles. Hierarchical analysis was performed to identify tissue-specific genes. Furthermore, Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) analyses were employed to identify significant terms and pathways for the DEGs.ResultsDEGs involved in protein phosphorylation and adhesion molecules were indicated to play a crucial role in spermatogenesis and fertilization, respectively. Those genes associated with the G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling pathway and small GTPase-mediated signal transduction pathway play an essential role in cytoskeleton organization during oogenesis. Additionally, DEGs associated with the SMA genes and TGF-β signaling pathway are crucial in adult female embryogenesis. Some genes associated with particular biological processes and pathways that were identified in this study have been linked to defects in germline development, embryogenesis and reproductive behavior. In the enriched KEGG pathway analysis, Hippo signaling, oxytocin signaling and tight junction pathways were identified to play a role in Ascaris male and female reproductive systems.ConclusionsThis study has provided comprehensive transcriptome profiles of discrete A. lumbricoides reproductive tissue samples, revealing the molecular basis of these functionally important tissues. The data generated from this study will provide fundamental knowledge on the reproductive biology of Ascaris and will inform future target identification for anti-ascariasis drugs and/or vaccines.

Original publication




Journal article


Parasites & vectors

Publication Date





Department of Helminthology, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, 10400, Thailand.


Ovary, Animals, Humans, Ascaris lumbricoides, Ascariasis, Gene Expression Profiling, Female, Male, Transcriptome