A prevalent feature of Strongyloides stercoralis is a life-long and potentially lethal infection that is due to the nematode parasite’s ability to autoinfect and, thereby, self-replicate within its host. Here, we investigated the role of the parasite’s nuclear receptor, Ss-DAF-12, in governing infection. We identified Δ7-DA as the endogenous Ss-DAF-12 ligand and elucidated the hormone’s biosynthetic pathway. Genetic loss of function of the ligand’s rate-limiting enzyme demonstrated that Δ7-DA synthesis is necessary for parasite reproduction, whereas its absence is required for the development of infectious larvae. Availability of the ligand permits Ss-DAF-12 to function as an on/ off switch governing autoinfection, making it vulnerable to therapeutic intervention. In a preclin-ical model of hyperinfection, pharmacologic activation of DAF-12 suppressed autoinfection and markedly reduced lethality. Moreover, when Δ7-DA was administered with ivermectin, the current but limited drug of choice for treating strongyloidiasis, the combinatorial effects of the two drugs resulted in a near cure of the disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Neuroscience
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology