Nematode parasite infections cause disease in humans and animals and threaten global food security by reducing productivity in livestock and crop farming. The escalation of anthelmintic resistance in economically important nematode parasites underscores the need for the identification of novel drug targets in these worms. Nematode neuropeptide signalling is an attractive system for chemotherapeutic exploitation, with neuropeptide G-protein coupled receptors (NP-GPCRs) representing the lead targets. In order to successfully validate NP-GPCRs for parasite control it is necessary to characterise their function and importance to nematode biology. This can be aided through identification of receptor activating ligand(s) in a process known as deorphanisation. Such efforts require the identification of all neuropeptide ligands within parasites. Here we mined the genomes of nine therapeutically relevant pathogenic nematodes to comprehensively characterise the neuropeptide-like protein (NLP) complements and demonstrate that: (i) parasitic nematodes possess a reduced complement of NLP-encoding genes relative to Caenorhabditis elegans; (ii) parasite NLP profiles are broadly conserved between nematode clades; (iii) five Ce-nlps are completely conserved across the nematode species examined; (iv) the extent and position of NLP-motif conservation is variable; (v) novel RPamide-encoding genes are present in parasitic nematodes; (vi) novel Allatostatin-C-like peptide encoding genes are present in both C. elegans and parasitic nematodes; (vii) novel NLP families are absent in C. elegans; and (viii) highly conserved nematode NLPs are bioactive. These data highlight the complexity of nematode NLPs and reveal the need for nomenclature revision in this diverse neuropeptide family. The identification of NLP ligands, and characterisation of those with functional relevance, advance our understanding of neuropeptide signalling to support exploitation of the neuropeptidergic system as an anthelmintic target.
|Journal||International Journal for Parasitology|
|Publication status||Published - 04 Jan 2022|