MICROBIAL GENETICS

Worming into host immune responses

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Science  04 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6192, pp. 43-44
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6192.43-f

The whipworm Trichuris trichirura

PHOTO: CNRI/SCIENCE SOURCE

Among the variety of parasitic worms that can infest human beings, whipworms, or trichurids, are distinct. They partially burrow into the gastrointestinal wall and immediately influence host immune responses. The worms need to persist in the gut to reproduce, which means they have to dampen their hosts' immune responses. To find the substances the worms use to modulate their hosts, Foth et al. sequenced the genomes of mouse- and human-infecting trichurid species and analyzed how mouse tissues responded to low-level persistent infections. The worms produced a suite of serine protease enzymes, which split intestinal glycoproteins apart, helping the worms invade the intestine. Mice responded with a muted immune response, creating an inviting environment for the worms.

Nat. Genet. 10.1038/ng.3010 (2014).

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