The intestine of hookworms contains enzymes and proteins involved in the blood-feeding process of the parasite and is therefore a promising source of possible vaccine antigens. One such antigen, the hemoglobin-digesting intestinal aspartic protease known as Na-APR-1 from the human hookworm Necator americanus, is currently a lead candidate antigen in clinical trials, as is Na-GST-1 a heme-detoxifying glutathione S-transferase.
In order to discover additional hookworm vaccine antigens, messenger RNA was obtained from the intestine of male hookworms, Ancylostoma ceylanicum, maintained in hamsters. RNA-seq was performed using Illumina high-throughput sequencing technology. The genes expressed in the hookworm intestine were compared with those expressed in the whole worm and those genes overexpressed in the parasite intestine transcriptome were further analyzed.
Among the lead transcripts identified were genes encoding for proteolytic enzymes including an A. ceylanicum APR-1, but the most common proteases were cysteine-, serine-, and metallo-proteases. Also in abundance were specific transporters of key breakdown metabolites, including amino acids, glucose, lipids, ions and water; detoxifying and heme-binding glutathione S-transferases; a family of cysteine-rich/antigen 5/pathogenesis-related 1 proteins (CAP) previously found in high abundance in parasitic nematodes; C-type lectins; and heat shock proteins. These candidates will be ranked for downstream antigen target selection based on key criteria including abundance, uniqueness in the parasite versus the vertebrate host, as well as solubility and yield of expression.
The intestinal transcriptome of A. ceylanicum provides useful information for the identification of proteins involved in the blood-feeding process, representing a first step towards a reverse vaccinology approach to a human hookworm vaccine.