C. elegans is one of the most powerful model organisms and has been used to unravel several key genetic pathways. The C. elegans nematode has been used in parasitology research due to its high genetic tractability as a model organism. Their use in understanding parasitology is considered mainly due to the ease of in vitro culture, short generation time, small size, transparency, hermaphroditic reproduction, and a well-annotated genome. These characteristics are absent in many parasitic nematodes. Most parasitic nematodes require an insect or a vertebrate host and cannot be maintained in a petri dish. Hence, the ease of generating any genetically modified progeny diminishes when compared to C. elegans. The presence of hermaphroditic reproduction is a great advantage in C. elegans as many parasitic nematodes are gonochoristic (separate sexes).
Comparison of many parasitic genomes has revealed that a significant number of genes are conserved in C. elegans. There are several excellent tools now available to compare the genes in parasitic nematodes to C. elegans genes. These include the homology detection function available on WormBase and the website dedicated to parasitic nematodes, WormBase ParaSite that provides an excellent resource to access the sequenced genomes and also compare homology between the genes. To express a parasitic nematode gene, the researcher can look at codon usage in C. elegans and adapt the parasitic gene sequence to C. elegans with the help of tools like C. elegans Codon Adapter.
Furthermore, the case for using C. elegans to understand parasitism is also reinforced by the ability to quickly manipulate the genes. Microinjection is an easy and well-established technique in C. elegans to introduce foreign genetic material that can silence, mutate or overexpress any gene. Several studies have already established that many parasitic genes can be expressed in C. elegans. Here at NemaMetrix, we are focused on utilizing the vast genetic resources available in C. elegans to understand genetic interactions and eager to help researchers to understand the genetics of parasitism.
About the Author: Ramesh Ratnappan
|Ramesh is a scientist at NemaMetrix, working with the molecular biology team. He specializes in transgenics in C. elegans and parasitic nematodes, Heterorhabditis (insect parasite) and Ancylostoma (hookworm). He finished his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and worked at the University of Pittsburgh and George Washington University for his postdoctoral training. He is interested in expanding the techniques standardized in C. elegans to parasitic nematodes.