BACKGROUND: Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteases (TIMPs) are a multifunctional family of proteins that orchestrate extracellular matrix turnover, tissue remodelling and other cellular processes. In parasitic helminths, such as hookworms, TIMPs have been proposed to play key roles in the host-parasite interplay, including invasion of and establishment in the vertebrate animal host. Currently, knowledge of helminth TIMPs is limited to a small number of studies on canine hookworms, whereas no information is available on the occurrence of TIMPs in other parasitic helminths causing neglected diseases.
METHODS: In the present study, we conducted a large-scale investigation of TIMP proteins of a range of neglected human parasites including the hookworm Necator americanus, the roundworm Ascaris suum, the liver flukes Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverrini, as well as the schistosome blood flukes. This entailed mining available transcriptomic and/or genomic sequence datasets for the presence of homologues of known TIMPs, predicting secondary structures of defined protein sequences, systematic phylogenetic analyses and assessment of differential expression of genes encoding putative TIMPs in the developmental stages of Ascaris suum (roundworm), N. americanus and Schistosoma haematobium which infect the mammalian host.
RESULTS: A total of 15 protein sequences with high homology to known eukaryotic TIMPs were predicted from the complement of sequence data available for parasitic helminths and subjected to in-depth bioinformatic analyses.
CONCLUSIONS: Supported by the availability of gene manipulation technologies such as RNA interference and/or transgenesis, this work provides a basis for future functional explorations of helminth TIMPs and, in particular, of their role/s in fundamental biological pathways linked to long-term establishment in the vertebrate host, with a view towards the development of novel approaches for the control of neglected helminthiases.