Using droplet digital PCR for the detection of hco-acr-8b levamisole resistance marker in H. contortus.
ABSTRACT: The nematode Haemonchus contortus is one of the most prevalent and pathogenic parasites in small ruminants. Although usually controlled using anthelmintics, the development of drug resistance by the parasite has become a major issue in livestock production. While the molecular detection of benzimidazole resistance in H. contortus is well developed, the molecular tools and protocols are far less advanced for the detection of levamisole resistance. The hco-acr-8 gene encodes a critical acetylcholine susceptible subunit that confers levamisole-sensitivity to the receptor. Here, we report the development of a droplet digital PCR assay as a molecular tool to detect a 63 bp deletion in the hco-acr-8 that has been previously associated with levamisole resistance. Sanger sequencing of single adult H. contortus yielded 56 high-quality consensus sequences surrounding the region containing the deletion. Based on the sequencing data, new primers and probes were designed and validated with a novel droplet digital PCR assay for the quantification of the deletion containing "resistant" allele in genomic DNA samples. Single adult worms from six phenotypically described isolates (n = 60) and from two Swedish sheep farms (n = 30) where levamisole was effective were tested. Even though a significant difference in genotype frequencies between the resistant and susceptible reference isolates was found (p = 0.01), the homozygous "resistant" genotype was observed to be abundantly present in both the susceptible isolates as well as in some Swedish H. contortus samples. Furthermore, field larval culture samples, collected pre- (n = 7) and post- (n = 6) levamisole treatment on seven Swedish sheep farms where levamisole was fully efficacious according to Fecal Egg Count Reduction Test results, were tested to evaluate the frequency of the "resistant" allele in each. Frequencies of the deletion ranged from 35 to 80% in the pre-treatment samples, whereas no amplifiable H. contortus genomic DNA was detected in the post-treatment samples. Together, these data reveal relatively high frequencies of the 63 bp deletion in the hco-acr-8 both on individual H. contortus and field larval culture scales, and cast doubt on the utility of the deletion in the hco-acr-8 as a molecular marker for levamisole resistance detection on sheep farms.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The cholinergic agonist levamisole is widely used to treat parasitic nematode infestations. This anthelmintic drug paralyses worms by activating a class of levamisole-sensitive acetylcholine receptors (L-AChRs) expressed in nematode muscle cells. However, levamisole efficacy has been compromised by the emergence of drug-resistant parasites, especially in gastrointestinal nematodes such as Haemonchus contortus. We report here the first functional reconstitution and pharmacological characterization of H. contortus L-AChRs in a heterologous expression system. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: In the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, five AChR subunit and three ancillary protein genes are necessary in vivo and in vitro to synthesize L-AChRs. We have cloned the H. contortus orthologues of these genes and expressed them in Xenopus oocytes. We reconstituted two types of H. contortus L-AChRs with distinct pharmacologies by combining different receptor subunits. KEY RESULTS: The Hco-ACR-8 subunit plays a pivotal role in selective sensitivity to levamisole. As observed with C. elegans L-AChRs, expression of H. contortus receptors requires the ancillary proteins Hco-RIC-3, Hco-UNC-50 and Hco-UNC-74. Using this experimental system, we demonstrated that a truncated Hco-UNC-63 L-AChR subunit, which was specifically detected in a levamisole-resistant H. contortus isolate, but not in levamisole-sensitive strains, hampers the normal function of L-AChRs, when co-expressed with its full-length counterpart. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: We provide the first functional evidence for a putative molecular mechanism involved in levamisole resistance in any parasitic nematode. This expression system will provide a means to analyse molecular polymorphisms associated with drug resistance at the electrophysiological level.
Project description:The mechanism of resistance to the anthelmintic levamisole in parasitic nematodes is poorly understood, although there is some evidence implicating changes in expression of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit genes. Hence, in order to define levamisole resistance mechanisms in some Australian field-derived isolates of Haemonchus contortus we examined gene expression patterns and SNPs in nAChR subunit genes, as well as expression levels for P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and receptor ancillary protein genes, in various life stages of one levamisole-sensitive and three levamisole-resistant isolates of this species. Larvae of two isolates showed high-level resistance to levamisole (resistance ratios at the IC50 > 600) while the third isolate showed a degree of heterogeneity, with a resistance factor of only 1.1-fold at the IC50 alongside the presence of a resistant subpopulation. Transcription patterns for nAChR subunit genes showed a great degree of variability across the different life stages and isolates. The most consistent observation was the down-regulation of Hco-unc-63a in adults of all resistant isolates. Transcription of this gene was also reduced in the L3 stage of the two most resistant isolates, highlighting its potential as a resistance marker in the readily accessible free-living stages. There was down regulation of all four Hco-unc-29 paralogs in adults of one resistant isolate. There were no consistent changes in expression of P-gps or ancillary protein genes across the resistant isolates. The present study has demonstrated a complex pattern of nAChR subunit gene expression in H. contortus, and has highlighted several instances where reduced expression of subunit genes (Hco-unc-63a, Hco-unc-29) may be associated with the observed levamisole resistance. The data also suggests that it will be difficult to detect resistance using gene transcription-based methods on pooled larval samples from isolates containing only a resistant subpopulation due to the averaging of gene expression data across the whole population.
Project description:Acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) are pentameric ligand-gated ion channels involved in the neurotransmission of both vertebrates and invertebrates. A number of anthelmintic compounds like levamisole and pyrantel target the AChRs of nematodes producing spastic paralysis of the worms. The muscle AChRs of nematode parasites fall into three pharmacological classes that are preferentially activated by the cholinergic agonists levamisole (L-type), nicotine (N-type) and bephenium (B-type), respectively. Despite a number of studies of the B-type AChR in parasitic species, this receptor remains to be characterized at the molecular level. Recently, we have reconstituted and functionally characterized two distinct L-AChR subtypes of the gastro-intestinal parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus in the Xenopus laevis oocyte expression system by providing the cRNAs encoding the receptor subunits and three ancillary proteins (Boulin et al. in Br J Pharmacol 164(5):1421-1432, 2011). In the present study, the effect of the bephenium drug on Hco-L-AChR1 and Hco-L-AChR2 subtypes was examined using the two-microelectrode voltage-clamp technique. We demonstrate that bephenium selectively activates the Hco-L-AChR1 subtype made of Hco-UNC-29.1, Hco-UNC-38, Hco-UNC-63, Hco-ACR-8 subunits that is more sensitive to levamisole than acetylcholine. Removing the Hco-ACR-8 subunit produced the Hco-L-AChR2 subtype that is more sensitive to pyrantel than acetylcholine and partially activated by levamisole, but which was bephenium-insensitive indicating that the bephenium-binding site involves Hco-ACR-8. Attempts were made to modify the subunit stoichiometry of the Hco-L-AChR1 subtype by injecting five fold more cRNA of individual subunits. Increased Hco-unc-29.1 cRNA produced no functional receptor. Increasing Hco-unc-63, Hco-unc-38 or Hco-acr-8 cRNAs did not affect the pharmacological characteristics of Hco-L-AChR1 but reduced the currents elicited by acetylcholine and the other agonists. Here, we provide the first description of the molecular composition and functional characteristics of any invertebrate bephenium-sensitive receptor.
Project description:The recently launched veterinary anthelmintic drench for sheep (Novartis Animal Health Inc., Switzerland) containing the nematocide monepantel represents a new class of anthelmintics: the amino-acetonitrile derivatives (AADs), much needed in view of widespread resistance to the classical drugs. Recently, it was shown that the ACR-23 protein in Caenorhabditis elegans and a homologous protein, MPTL-1 in Haemonchus contortus, are potential targets for AAD action. Both proteins belong to the DEG-3 subfamily of acetylcholine receptors, which are thought to be nematode-specific, and different from those targeted by the imidazothiazoles (e.g. levamisole). Here we provide further evidence that Cel-ACR-23 and Hco-MPTL-1-like subunits are involved in the monepantel-sensitive phenotype. We performed comparative genomics of ligand-gated ion channel genes from several nematodes and subsequently assessed their sensitivity to anthelmintics. The nematode species in the Caenorhabditis genus, equipped with ACR-23/MPTL-1-like receptor subunits, are sensitive to monepantel (EC(50)<1.25 µM), whereas the related nematodes Pristionchus pacificus and Strongyloides ratti, which lack an ACR-23/MPTL-1 homolog, are insensitive (EC(50)>43 µM). Genome sequence information has long been used to identify putative targets for therapeutic intervention. We show how comparative genomics can be applied to predict drug sensitivity when molecular targets of a compound are known or suspected.
Project description:While there is some evidence that changes in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunits confer resistance to levamisole in gastrointestinal helminth parasites, the exact nature of the resistance mechanism(s) is unclear. We utilised the presence of a resistant fraction within the Wallangra 2003 isolate of Haemonchus contortus larvae in order to subdivide the population into three subpopulations of larvae able to survive increasing concentrations of the drug. We then measured gene expression levels in the subpopulations and the larval population as a whole, focusing on genes encoding the subunit components of levamisole-sensitive receptors, genes encoding ancillary proteins involved in receptor assembly, and P-glycoprotein (P-gp) genes. The subpopulation surviving the lowest levamisole concentration showed increases of 1.5- to 3-fold in a number of P-gp genes (Hco-pgp-3, -4, -10, and -14) alongside unchanged receptor genes, compared to the whole Wallangra larval population. On the other hand, the subpopulation surviving the intermediate levamisole concentration showed an increase in only a single P-gp (Hco-pgp-14), alongside decreases in some receptor subunit (Hco-unc-63a) and ancillary protein genes (Hco-unc-50, Hco-ric-3.1 and 3.1). The subpopulation surviving the highest levamisole concentration showed further decreases in receptor subunit genes (Hco-unc-63a and Hco-unc-29 paralogs) as well as genes involved in receptor assembly (Hco-unc-74, Hco-unc-50, Hco-ric-3.1 and 3.1), alongside no increased P-gp gene levels. This suggests a biphasic pattern of drug resistance in the larvae of this worm isolate, in which a non-specific P-gp-mediated mechanism confers low levels of resistance, while higher level resistance is due to altered receptor subunit composition as a result of changes in both subunit composition and in the levels of proteins involved in receptor assembly.
Project description:Cholinergic agonists such as levamisole and pyrantel are widely used as anthelmintics to treat parasitic nematode infestations. These drugs elicit spastic paralysis by activating acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) expressed in nematode body wall muscles. In the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, genetic screens led to the identification of five genes encoding levamisole-sensitive-AChR (L-AChR) subunits: unc-38, unc-63, unc-29, lev-1 and lev-8. These subunits form a functional L-AChR when heterologously expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes. Here we show that the majority of parasitic species that are sensitive to levamisole lack a gene orthologous to C. elegans lev-8. This raises important questions concerning the properties of the native receptor that constitutes the target for cholinergic anthelmintics. We demonstrate that the closely related ACR-8 subunit from phylogenetically distant animal and plant parasitic nematode species functionally substitutes for LEV-8 in the C. elegans L-AChR when expressed in Xenopus oocytes. The importance of ACR-8 in parasitic nematode sensitivity to cholinergic anthelmintics is reinforced by a 'model hopping' approach in which we demonstrate the ability of ACR-8 from the hematophagous parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus to fully restore levamisole sensitivity, and to confer high sensitivity to pyrantel, when expressed in the body wall muscle of C. elegans lev-8 null mutants. The critical role of acr-8 to in vivo drug sensitivity is substantiated by the successful demonstration of RNAi gene silencing for Hco-acr-8 which reduced the sensitivity of H. contortus larvae to levamisole. Intriguingly, the pyrantel sensitivity remained unchanged thus providing new evidence for distinct modes of action of these important anthelmintics in parasitic species versus C. elegans. More broadly, this highlights the limits of C. elegans as a predictive model to decipher cholinergic agonist targets from parasitic nematode species and provides key molecular insight to inform the discovery of next generation anthelmintic compounds.
Project description:Gastro-intestinal nematodes in ruminants, especially Haemonchus contortus, are a global threat to sheep and cattle farming. The emergence of drug resistance, and even multi-drug resistance to the currently available classes of broad spectrum anthelmintics, further stresses the need for new drugs active against gastro-intestinal nematodes. A novel chemical class of synthetic anthelmintics, the Amino-Acetonitrile Derivatives (AADs), was recently discovered and the drug candidate AAD-1566 (monepantel) was chosen for further development. Studies with Caenorhabditis elegans suggested that the AADs act via nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) of the nematode-specific DEG-3 subfamily. Here we identify nAChR genes of the DEG-3 subfamily from H. contortus and investigate their role in AAD sensitivity. Using a novel in vitro selection procedure, mutant H. contortus populations of reduced sensitivity to AAD-1566 were obtained. Sequencing of full-length nAChR coding sequences from AAD-susceptible H. contortus and their AAD-1566-mutant progeny revealed 2 genes to be affected. In the gene monepantel-1 (Hco-mptl-1, formerly named Hc-acr-23H), a panel of mutations was observed exclusively in the AAD-mutant nematodes, including deletions at intron-exon boundaries that result in mis-spliced transcripts and premature stop codons. In the gene Hco-des-2H, the same 135 bp insertion in the 5' UTR created additional, out of frame start codons in 2 independent H. contortus AAD-mutants. Furthermore, the AAD mutants exhibited altered expression levels of the DEG-3 subfamily nAChR genes Hco-mptl-1, Hco-des-2H and Hco-deg-3H as quantified by real-time PCR. These results indicate that Hco-MPTL-1 and other nAChR subunits of the DEG-3 subfamily constitute a target for AAD action against H. contortus and that loss-of-function mutations in the corresponding genes may reduce the sensitivity to AADs.
Project description:The levamisole-sensitive nicotinic acetylcholine receptor present at nematode neuromuscular junctions is composed of multiple different subunits, with the exact composition varying between species. We tested the ability of two well-conserved nicotinic receptor subunits, UNC-38 and UNC-29, from Haemonchus contortus and Ascaris suum to rescue the levamisole-resistance and locomotion defects of Caenorhabditis elegans strains with null deletion mutations in the unc-38 and unc-29 genes. The parasite cDNAs were cloned downstream of the relevant C. elegans promoters and introduced into the mutant strains via biolistic transformation. The UNC-38 subunit of H. contortus was able to completely rescue both the locomotion defects and levamisole resistance of the null deletion mutant VC2937 (ok2896), but no C. elegans expressing the A. suum UNC-38 could be detected. The H. contortus UNC-29.1 subunit partially rescued the levamisole resistance of a C. elegans null mutation in unc-29 VC1944 (ok2450), but did cause increased motility in a thrashing assay. In contrast, only a single line of worms containing the A. suum UNC-29 subunit showed a partial rescue of levamisole resistance, with no effect on thrashing.
Project description:Gastrointestinal (GI) nematodes are among the most important causes of production loss in farmed ruminants, and anthelmintic resistance is emerging globally. We hypothesized that wild deer could potentially act as reservoirs of anthelmintic-resistant GI nematodes between livestock farms. Adult abomasal nematodes and faecal samples were collected from fallow (n = 24), red (n = 14) and roe deer (n = 10) from venison farms and areas of extensive or intensive livestock farming. Principal components analysis of abomasal nematode species composition revealed differences between wild roe deer grazing in the areas of intensive livestock farming, and fallow and red deer in all environments. Alleles for benzimidazole (BZ) resistance were identified in ?-tubulin of Haemonchus contortus of roe deer and phenotypic resistance confirmed in vitro by an egg hatch test (EC50 = 0.149 µg ml(-1) ± 0.13 µg ml(-1)) on H. contortus eggs from experimentally infected sheep. This BZ-resistant H. contortus isolate also infected a calf experimentally. We present the first account of in vitro BZ resistance in wild roe deer, but further experiments should firmly establish the presence of phenotypic BZ resistance in vivo. Comprehensive in-field studies should assess whether nematode cross-transmission between deer and livestock occurs and contributes, in any way, to the development of resistance on livestock farms.
Project description:The aim of this study was to identify for the first time single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with Haemonchus contortus resistance in Florida Native sheep, using a targeted sequencing approach. One hundred and fifty-three lambs were evaluated in this study. At the start of the trial, phenotypic records for fecal egg count (FEC), FAMACHA score, body condition score (BCS), and weight were recorded and deworming of sheep with levamisole (18 mg/kg of body weight) was performed. Ten days post-deworming (baseline) and 28 d post-baseline, a full hematogram of each sheep was obtained and FEC, FAMACHA score, BCS, and weight were assessed. Average daily gain was calculated at the end of the trial. Out of 153 animals, 100 sheep were selected for genotyping using a targeted sequencing approach. Targeted sequencing panel included 100 candidate genes for immune response against H. contortus. SNPs were discarded if call rate <95% and minor allele frequency ?0.05. A mixed model was used to analyze the response variables and included the identity by state matrix to control for population structure. A contemporary group (age, group, and sex) was included as fixed effect. Bonferroni correction was used to control for multiple testing. Eighteen SNPs on chromosomes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, 15, 18, 20, 24, and 26 were significant for different traits. Our results suggest that loci related to Th17, Treg, and Th2 responses play an important role in the expression of resistant phenotypes. Several genes including ITGA4, MUC15, TLR3, PCDH7, CFI, CXCL10, TNF, CCL26, STAT3, GPX2, IL2RB, and STAT6 were identified as potential markers for resistance to natural H. contortus exposure. This is the first study that evaluates potential genetic markers for H. contortus resistance in Florida Native sheep.