A novel biological activity of praziquantel requiring voltage-operated Ca2+ channel β subunits: Subversion of flatworm regenerative polarity

Taisaku Nogi, Dan Zhang, John D. Chan, Jonathan S. Marchant

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

79 Scopus citations


Background: Approximately 200 million people worldwide harbour parasitic flatworm infections that cause schistosomiasis. A single drug - praziquantel (PZQ) - has served as the mainstay pharmacotherapy for schistosome infections since the 1980s. However, the relevant in vivo target(s) of praziquantel remain undefined. Methods and Findings: Here, we provide fresh perspective on the molecular basis of praziquantel efficacy in vivo consequent to the discovery of a remarkable action of PZQ on regeneration in a species of free-living flatworm (Dugesia japonica). Specifically, PZQ caused a robust (100% penetrance) and complete duplication of the entire anterior-posterior axis during flatworm regeneration to yield two-headed organisms with duplicated, integrated central nervous and organ systems. Exploiting this phenotype as a readout for proteins impacting praziquantel efficacy, we demonstrate that PZQ-evoked bipolarity was selectively ablated by in vivo RNAi of voltage-operated calcium channel (VOCC) b subunits, but not by knockdown of a VOCC α subunit. At higher doses of PZQ, knockdown of VOCC β subunits also conferred resistance to PZQ in lethality assays. Conclusions: This study identifies a new biological activity of the antischistosomal drug praziquantel on regenerative polarity in a species of free-living flatworm. Ablation of the bipolar regenerative phenotype evoked by PZQ via in vivo RNAi of VOCC β subunits provides the first genetic evidence implicating a molecular target crucial for in vivo PZQ activity and supports the 'VOCC hypothesis' of PZQ efficacy. Further, in terms of regenerative biology and Ca2+ signaling, these data highlight a novel role for voltage-operated Ca2+ entry in regulating in vivo stem cell differentiation and regenerative patterning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
StatePublished - 2009

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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