Schistosomes are parasitic flatworms infecting hundreds of millions of people. These parasites alternate between asexual reproduction in molluscan hosts and sexual reproduction in mammalian hosts; short-lived, water-borne stages infect each host. Thriving in such disparate environments requires remarkable developmental plasticity, manifested by five body plans deployed throughout the parasite’s life cycle. Stem cells in Schistosoma mansoni provide a potential source for such plasticity; however, the relationship between stem cells from different life-cycle stages remains unclear, as does the origin of the germline, required for sexual reproduction. Here, we show that subsets of larvally derived stem cells are likely sources of adult stem cells and the germline. We also identify a novel gene that serves as the earliest marker for the schistosome germline, which emerges inside the mammalian host and is ultimately responsible for disease pathology. This work reveals the stem cell heterogeneity driving the propagation of the schistosome life cycle.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)