Schistosome parasites are muticellular eucaryotic organisms with a complex life cycle that involves mammalian and snail hosts. Unlike other trematode parasites, schistosomes (along with the Didymozoidae) have evolved separate sexes or dioecy. Sex is determined by a chromosomal mechanism. The dioecious state created an opportunity for the sexes to play a role in schistosome evolution that has resulted in an interesting interplay between the sexes. The classical observation, made more than 50 years ago, is that female schistosomes do not develop unless a male worm is present. Studies up through the 1990s focused on dissecting the role of the sexes in mate attraction, mate choice, mating behavior, female growth, female reproductive development, egg production, and other sex-evolved functions. In the mid-1980s, studies began to address the molecular events of male-female interactions. The classic morphological observation that female schistosomes do not complete reproductive development unless a male worm is present has been redefined in molecular terms. The male by an unknown mechanism transduces a signal that regulates female gene expression in a stage-, tissue-, and temporal-specific manner. A number of female-specific genes have been identified, along with signaling pathways and nuclear receptors, that play a role in female reproductive development. In addition, a number of host factors such as cytokines have also been demonstrated to affect adult male and female development and egg production. This review focuses on the biological interactions of the male and female schistosome and the role of parasite and host factors in these interactions as they contribute to the life cycle of Schistosoma mansoni.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology