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Comparative transcriptome analysis of Eimeria necatrix third-generation merozoites and gametocytes reveals genes involved in sexual differentiation and gametocyte development

Su, Shijie, Hou, Zhaofeng, Liu, Dandan, Jia, Chuanli, Wang, Lele, Xu, Jinjun, Tao, Jianping
Veterinary parasitology 2018 v.252 pp. 35-46
Eimeria necatrix, biosynthesis, chickens, gametocytes, gene expression regulation, gene ontology, genes, merozoites, mortality, oocysts, parasites, sequence analysis, sexual development, signal transduction, transcriptomics
Eimeria necatrix is one of the most pathogenic parasites causing high mortality in chicken older than 8 weeks. Eimeria spp. possess a coccidian lifecycle including both sexual and asexual stages. Sexual differentiation and development occupies a central place in the life cycle of the Eimeria parasite. However, our knowledge of the sexual differentiation and gametocyte development of Eimeria is very limited. Here using RNA sequencing, we conducted a comparative transcriptome analysis between third-generation merozoites (MZ-3) and gametocytes (GAM) of E. necatrix to identify genes with functions related to sexual differentiation and gametocyte development. Approximately 4267 genes were differentially expressed between MZ-3 and GAM. Compared with MZ-3, 2789 genes were upregulated and 1478 genes were downregulated in GAM. Approximately 329 genes in MZ-3 and 1289 genes in GAM were further analyzed in the evaluation of stage-specific genes. Gene Ontology (GO) classification and KEGG analysis revealed that 953 upregulated gametocyte genes were annotated with 170 GO assignments, and 405 upregulated genes were associated with 231 signaling pathways. We also predicted a further 83 upregulated gametocyte genes, of which 53 were involved in the biosynthesis of the oocyst wall, and 30 were involved in microgametocyte development. This information offers insights into the mechanisms governing the sexual development of E. necatrix and may potentially allow the identification of targets for blocking parasite transmission.