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MicroRNA-1 targets ribosomal protein genes to regulate the growth, development and reproduction of Schistosoma japonicum.

Eggs laid by mature female schistosomes are primarily responsible for the pathogenesis of schistosomiasis and critical for transmission. Consequently, elucidating the mechanism of sexual maturation as well as egg production may lead to new strategies for the control of schistosomiasis. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in multiple biological processes including reproduction in many organisms, yet their roles have not been well characterized in schistosomes. Here, we investigated microRNA-1 (miR-1), which was downregulated gradually in both male and female Schistosoma japonicum after they reached sexually maturity. The expression of miR-1, as shown with quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR), was lower in the reproductive organs of adult females compared with the somatic tissues. Overexpression of miR-1 in adult worms destroyed the morphological architecture of reproductive organs and reduced the subsequent oviposition, which may be due to the activation of apoptosis pathways. Through in silico analysis, 34 potential target genes of miR-1 were identified, including five ribosomal protein genes, called rp-s13, rp-l7ae, rp-l14, rp-l11 and rp-s24e. In vitro dual-luciferase reporter gene assays and miRNA overexpression experiments further validated that these ribosomal protein genes were directly regulated by miR-1. In contrast to the gene expression of miR-1, qRT-PCR and in situ hybridization experiments demonstrated these ribosomal protein genes were enriched in the sexual organs of adult females. Using RNA interference to silence the ribosomal protein genes in different developmental stages in a mouse model system, we demonstrated that these miR-1 target genes not only participated in the reproductive development of S. japonicum, but also were required for the growth and survival of the parasite in the early developmental stages. Taken together, our data suggested that miR-1 may affect the growth, reproduction and oviposition of S. japonicum by targeting the ribosomal protein genes, which provides insights for exploration of new anti-schistosome strategies.

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