Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ( IF 9.412 ) Pub Date : 2020-08-11 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2006553117 Jayhun Lee,Tracy Chong,Phillip A Newmark
Schistosomes are parasitic flatworms that cause schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease affecting over 200 million people. Schistosomes develop multiple body plans while navigating their complex life cycle, which involves two different hosts: a mammalian definitive host and a molluscan intermediate host. Their survival and propagation depend upon proliferation and differentiation of stem cells necessary for parasite homeostasis and reproduction. Infective larvae released from snails carry a handful of stem cells that serve as the likely source of new tissues as the parasite adapts to life inside the mammalian host; however, the role of these stem cells during this critical life cycle stage remains unclear. Here, we characterize stem cell fates during early intramammalian development. Surprisingly, we find that the esophageal gland, an accessory organ of the digestive tract, develops before the rest of the digestive system is formed and blood feeding is initiated, suggesting a role in processes beyond nutrient uptake. To explore such a role, we examine schistosomes that lack the esophageal gland due to knockdown of a forkhead-box transcription factor, Sm-foxA, which blocks development and maintenance of the esophageal gland, without affecting the development of other somatic tissues. Intriguingly, schistosomes lacking the esophageal gland die after transplantation into naive mice, but survive in immunodeficient mice lacking B cells. We show that parasites lacking the esophageal gland are unable to lyse ingested immune cells within the esophagus before passing them into the gut. These results unveil an immune-evasion mechanism mediated by the esophageal gland, which is essential for schistosome survival and pathogenesis.