Novel integrated computational AMP discovery approaches highlight diversity in the helminth AMP repertoire

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Antimicrobial Peptides (AMPs) are immune effectors that are key components of the invertebrate innate immune system providing protection against pathogenic microbes. Parasitic helminths (phylum Nematoda and phylum Platyhelminthes) share complex interactions with their hosts and closely associated microbiota that are likely regulated by a diverse portfolio of antimicrobial immune effectors including AMPs. Knowledge of helminth AMPs has largely been derived from nematodes, whereas the flatworm AMP repertoire has not been described.

This study highlights limitations in the homology-based approaches, used to identify putative nematode AMPs, for the characterisation of flatworm AMPs, and reveals that innovative algorithmic AMP prediction approaches provide an alternative strategy for novel helminth AMP discovery. The data presented here: (i) reveal that flatworms do not encode traditional lophotrochozoan AMP groups (Big Defensin, CSαβ peptides and Myticalin); (ii) describe a unique integrated computational pipeline for the discovery of novel helminth AMPs; (iii) reveal >16,000 putative AMP-like peptides across 127 helminth species; (iv) highlight that cysteine-rich peptides dominate helminth AMP-like peptide profiles; (v) uncover eight novel helminth AMP-like peptides with diverse antibacterial activities, and (vi) demonstrate the detection of AMP-like peptides from Ascaris suum biofluid. These data represent a significant advance in our understanding of the putative helminth AMP repertoire and underscore a potential untapped source of antimicrobial diversity which may provide opportunities for the discovery of novel antimicrobials. Further, unravelling the role of endogenous worm-derived antimicrobials and their potential to influence host-worm-microbiome interactions may be exploited for the development of unique helminth control approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1011508
Number of pages23
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023


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