BACKGROUND: The infective stage of the parasitic nematode hookworm is developmentally arrested in the environment and needs to infect a specific host to complete its life cycle. The canine hookworm (Ancylostoma caninum) is an excellent model for investigating human hookworm infections. The transcription factor of A. caninum, Ac-DAF-16, which has a characteristic fork head or "winged helix" DNA binding domain (DBD), has been implicated in the resumption of hookworm development in the host. However, the precise roles of Ac-DAF-16 in hookworm parasitism and its downstream targets are unknown. In the present study, we combined molecular techniques and bioinformatics to identify a group of Ac-DAF-16 binding sites and target genes.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The DNA binding domain of Ac-DAF-16 was used to select genomic fragments by in vitro genomic selection. Twenty four bound genomic fragments were analyzed for the presence of the DAF-16 family binding element (DBE) and possible alternative Ac-DAF-16 bind motifs. The 22 genes linked to these genomic fragments were identified using bioinformatics tools and defined as candidate direct gene targets of Ac-DAF-16. Their developmental stage-specific expression patterns were examined. Also, a new putative DAF-16 binding element was identified.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results show that Ac-DAF-16 is involved in diverse biological processes throughout hookworm development. Further investigation of these target genes will provide insights into the molecular basis by which Ac-DAF-16 regulates its downstream gene network in hookworm infection.