Collette Britton is a Reader in Veterinary Parasitology at the University of Glasgow. Following her PhD in Biochemical Parasitology, Collette moved to the University of California-San Francisco to examine the function and regulation of parasitic nematode genes using C. elegans technology. Her research aims to apply genome and RNA technologies to development of new therapeutics for helminth diseases. Collette was a member of the EU FP7 PARAVAC consortium for vaccine development for animal helminth diseases and is a member of the BBSRC BUG consortium to investigate mechanisms of nematode drug resistance. http://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/bahcm/staff/collettebritton/
Collette Britton, Alan D Winter, Neil D Marks, Henry Gu, Tom McNeilly, Victoria Gillan, Eileen Devaney
University of Glasgow Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, Henry Wellcome Building, Bearsden Road, Glasgow
microRNAs (miRNAs) and small interfering (siRNAs) are important regulators of post-transcriptional gene expression. With the availability of parasite genome data and interest in developing better diagnostic tests and control methods, these small RNAs are receiving increasing attention. miRNAs are 22 nucleotide non-coding RNAs which bind to target mRNA sequences, often in the 3? untranslated region (UTR), to reduce gene expression. Using RNA sequencing and microarrays we have profiled miRNAs expressed during development of the nematodes Haemonchus contortus and Brugia pahangi. Many of the miRNAs are unique, suggesting roles in adaptation and survival within the host environment. Others are present across species and may play important conserved functions in nematode development. In H. contortus, we have identified miRNAs showing specific temporal or spatial patterns of expression and focussed on those 1) developmentally regulated as larvae switch from free-living to parasitic stages 2) highly enriched in gut tissue 3) released from the parasite and present in excretory-secretory (ES) products. Our aim is to identify the target genes and functions of these small RNAs. miRNAs present in H. contortus ES products can also be identified in host gut lymph node and abomasal tissue, suggesting that they may influence host-parasite interactions and immune responses. In filarial and schistosome infections, miRNAs released into host plasma can be exploited as sensitive and specific diagnostic markers. Application of siRNAs to mediate RNA interference (RNAi) gene silencing and improvements to this technique to identify essential gene function will also be discussed.