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Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important post-transcriptional regulators which control growth and development in eukaryotes. The cestode Echinococcus granulosus has a complex life-cycle involving different development stages but the mechanisms underpinning this development, including the involvement of miRNAs, remain unknown. Results: Using Illumina next generation sequencing technology, we sequenced at the genome-wide level three small RNA populations from the adult, protoscolex and cyst membrane of E. granulosus. A total of 94 pre-miRNA candidates (coding 91 mature miRNAs and 39 miRNA stars) were in silico predicted. Through comparison of expression profiles, we found 42 mature miRNAs and 23 miRNA stars expressed with different patterns in the three life stages examined. Furthermore, considering both the previously reported and newly predicted miRNAs, 25 conserved miRNAs families were identified in the E. granulosus genome. Comparing the presence or absence of these miRNA families with the free-living Schmidtea mediterranea, we found 13 conserved miRNAs are lost in E. granulosus, most of which are tissue-specific and involved in the development of ciliated cells, the gut and sensory organs. Finally, GO enrichment analysis of the differentially expressed miRNAs and their potential targets indicated that they may be involved in bi-directional development, nutrient metabolism and nervous system development in E. granulosus. Conclusions: This study has, for the first time, provided a comprehensive description of the different expression patterns of miRNAs in three distinct life cycle stages of E. granulosus. The analysis supports earlier suggestions that the loss of miRNAs in the Platyhelminths might be related to morphological simplification. These results may help in the exploration of the mechanism of interaction between this parasitic worm and its definitive and intermediate hosts, providing information that can be used to develop new interventions and therapeutics for the control of cystic echinococcosis.

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BMC Genomics






This article was published in BMC Genomics, Volume 15, Issue 1 .

The published version is available at

Copyright © 2014 Bai et al.

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