Schistosoma mansoni mucin genes expression (SmPoMuc): an epigenetic control to shape the adaptation to new host

Abstract : The digenetic trematode Schistosoma mansoni is a human parasite that uses the mollusc Biomphalaria glabrata as intermediate host. Specific S. mansoni strains can infect efficiently only certain B. glabrata strains (compatible strain) while others are incompatible. Strain-specific differences in transcription of a conserved family of polymorphic mucins (SmPoMucs) in S. mansoni are the principle determinants for this compatibility. In the present study, we investigated the bases of the control of SmPoMuc expression that evolved to evade B. glabrata diversified antigen recognition molecules. We compared the DNA sequences and chromatin structure of SmPoMuc promoters of two S. mansoni strains that are either compatible (C) or incompatible (IC) with a reference snail host. We reveal that although sequence differences are observed between active promoter regions of SmPoMuc genes, the sequences of the promoters are not diverse and are conserved between IC and C strains, suggesting that genetics alone cannot explain the evolution of compatibility polymorphism. In contrast, promoters carry epigenetic marks that are significantly different between the C and IC strains. Moreover, we show that modifications of the structure of the chromatin of the parasite modify transcription of SmPoMuc in the IC strain compared to the C strain and correlate with the presence of additional combinations of SmPoMuc transcripts only observed in the IC phenotype. Our results indicate that transcription polymorphism of a gene family that is responsible for an important adaptive trait of the parasite is epigenetically encoded. These strain-specific epigenetic marks are heritable, but can change while the underlying genetic information remains stable. This suggests that epigenetic changes may be important for the early steps in the adaptation of pathogens to new hosts, and might be an initial step in adaptive evolution in general
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Cecile Perrin, Julie Mireille Lepesant, Emmanuel Roger, David Duval, Sara Fneich, et al.. Schistosoma mansoni mucin genes expression (SmPoMuc): an epigenetic control to shape the adaptation to new host. PLoS Pathogens, Public Library of Science, 2013, 9 (8), pp.e1003571. ⟨10.1371/journal.ppat.1003571⟩. ⟨halsde-00856613⟩

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