In silico analysis of the fucosylation-associated genome of the human blood fluke Schistosoma mansoni: cloning and characterization of the enzymes involved in GDP-L-fucose synthesis and Golgi import
Fucosylated glycans of the parasitic flatworm Schistosoma mansoni play key roles in its development and immunobiology. In the present study we used a genome-wide homology-based bioinformatics approach to search for genes that contribute to fucosylated glycan expression in S. mansoni, specifically the α2-, α3-, and α6-fucosyltransferases (FucTs), which transfer L-fucose from a GDP-L-fucose donor to an oligosaccharide acceptor. We identified and in silico characterized several novel schistosome FucT homologs, including six α3-FucTs and six α6-FucTs, as well as two protein O-FucTs that catalyze the unrelated transfer of L-fucose to serine and threonine residues of epidermal growth factor- and thrombospondin-type repeats. No α2-FucTs were observed. Primary sequence analyses identified key conserved FucT motifs as well as characteristic transmembrane domains, consistent with their putative roles as fucosyltransferases. Most genes exhibit alternative splicing, with multiple transcript variants generated. A phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that schistosome α3- and α6-FucTs form monophyletic clades within their respective gene families, suggesting multiple gene duplications following the separation of the schistosome lineage from the main evolutionary tree. Quantitative decreases in steady-state transcript levels of some FucTs during early larval development suggest a possible mechanism for differential expression of fucosylated glycans in schistosomes. This study systematically identifies the complete repertoire of FucT homologs in S. mansoni and provides fundamental information regarding their genomic organization, genetic variation, developmental expression, and evolutionary history.