The protein and microRNA cargo of extracellular vesicles from parasitic helminths - current status and research priorities

Javier Sotillo, Mark Robinson, Michael J. Kimber, Marcela Cucher, Maria Ancarola, Peter Nejsum, Antonio Marcilla, Ramon Eichenberger, Lucienne Tritten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)
235 Downloads (Pure)


Helminth parasites have a remarkable ability to persist within their mammalian hosts which is largely due to their secretion of molecules with immunomodulatory properties. Although the soluble components of helminth secretions have been extensively studied, the discovery that helminths release extracellular vesicles (EVs) has added further complexity to the host-parasite interaction. Whilst several studies have begun to characterize the molecules carried by helminth EVs, work aimed at investigating their biological functions has been hindered by a lack of helminth-specific EV markers. To begin to address this, we summarized helminth EV literature to date. With a focus on the protein and microRNA (miRNA) cargo, we aimed to detect similarities and differences across those major groups of helminths for which data is available; namely nematodes, trematodes and cestodes. Pfam analysis revealed that although there is no universal EV marker for all helminth species, the EF-hand protein family was present in all EV datasets from cestodes and trematodes, and could serve as a platyhelminth EV biomarker. In contrast, M13 metallopeptidases and actin may have potential as markers for nematode EVs. As with proteins, many miRNA families appeared to be species-, stage-, or dataset-specific. Two miRNA families were common to nematode EVs (mir-10 and let-7); the miRNA cargo of EVs secreted by clade I species appeared somewhat different from species from other clades. Five miRNA families (mir-71, mir-10, mir-190, let-7 and mir-2) were shared by all trematode species examined. Our analysis has identified novel markers that may be used in studies aimed at characterizing helminth EVs and interrogating their function at the host-parasite interface. In addition, we discuss on the heterogeneity of methods used for helminth EVs isolation and emphasize the need for a standardized approach in reporting on helminth EV data.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Early online date08 Jul 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 08 Jul 2020


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