Extracellular non-coding RNA signatures of the metacestode stage of Echinococcus multilocularis

María Eugenia Ancarola, Gabriel Lichtenstein, Johannes Herbig, Nancy Holroyd, Mara Mariconti, Enrico Brunetti, Matthew Berriman, Krystyna Albrecht, Antonio Marcilla, Mara Cecilia Rosenzvit, Laura Kamenetzky, Klaus Brehm, Marcela Cucher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extracellular RNAs (ex-RNAs) are secreted by cells through different means that may involve association with proteins, lipoproteins or extracellular vesicles (EV). In the context of parasitism, ex-RNAs represent new and exciting communication intermediaries with promising potential as novel biomarkers. In the last years, it was shown that helminth parasites secrete ex-RNAs, however, most work mainly focused on RNA secretion mediated by EV. Ex-RNA study is of special interest in those helminth infections that still lack biomarkers for early and/or follow-up diagnosis, such as echinococcosis, a neglected zoonotic disease caused by cestodes of the genus Echinococcus. In this work, we have characterised the ex-RNA profile secreted by in vitro grown metacestodes of Echinococcus multilocularis, the casuative agent of alveolar echinococcosis. We have used high throughput RNA-sequencing together with RT-qPCR to characterise the ex-RNA profile secreted towards the extra- and intra-parasite milieus in EV-enriched and EV-depleted fractions. We show that a polarized secretion of small RNAs takes place, with microRNAs mainly secreted to the extra-parasite milieu and rRNA- and tRNA-derived sequences mostly secreted to the intra-parasite milieu. In addition, we show by nanoparticle tracking analyses that viable metacestodes secrete EV mainly into the metacestode inner vesicular fluid (MVF); however, the number of nanoparticles in culture medium and MVF increases > 10-fold when metacestodes show signs of tegument impairment. Interestingly, we confirm the presence of host miRNAs in the intra-parasite milieu, implying their internalization and transport through the tegument towards the MVF. Finally, our assessment of the detection of Echinococcus miRNAs in patient samples by RT-qPCR yielded negative results suggesting the tested miRNAs may not be good biomarkers for this disease. A comprehensive study of the secretion mechanisms throughout the life cycle of these parasites will help to understand parasite interaction with the host and also, improve current diagnostic tools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0008890
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Culture Media, Conditioned/analysis
  • Echinococcus multilocularis/genetics
  • Extracellular Vesicles/metabolism
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs/genetics
  • Nanoparticles
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA


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