In view of the call by the World Health Organization (WHO) for elimination of schistosomiasis as a public health problem by 2025, use of molluscicides in snail control to supplement chemotherapy–based control efforts is likely to increase in the coming years. The mechanisms of action of niclosamide, the active ingredient in the most widely used molluscicides, remain largely unknown. A better understanding of its toxicology at the molecular level will both improve our knowledge of snail biology and may offer valuable insights into the development of better chemical control methods for snails. We used a recently developed Biomphalaria glabrata oligonucleotide microarray (31K features) to investigate the effect of sublethal exposure to niclosamide on the transcriptional responses of the snail B. glabrata relative to untreated snails. Most of the genes highly upregulated following exposure of snails to niclosamide are involved in biotransformation of xenobiotics, including genes encoding cytochrome P450s (CYP), glutathione S-transferases (GST), and drug transporters, notably multi-drug resistance protein (efflux transporter) and solute linked carrier (influx transporter). Niclosamide also induced stress responses. Specifically, six heat shock protein (HSP) genes from three super-families (HSP20, HSP40 and HSP70) were upregulated. Genes encoding ADP-ribosylation factor (ARF), cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) and coatomer, all of which are involved in vesicle trafficking in the Golgi of mammalian cells, were also upregulated. Lastly, a hemoglobin gene was downregulated, suggesting niclosamide may affect oxygen transport. Our results show that snails mount substantial responses to sublethal concentrations of niclosamide, at least some of which appear to be protective. The topic of how niclosamide’s lethality at higher concentrations is determined requires further study. Given that niclosamide has also been used as an anthelmintic drug for decades and has been found to have activity against several types of cancer, our findings may be of relevance in understanding how both parasites and neoplastic cells respond to this compound.
Zhang S-M, Buddenborg SK, Adema CM, Sullivan JT, Loker ES (2015) Altered Gene Expression in the Schistosome-Transmitting Snail Biomphalaria glabrata following Exposure to Niclosamide, the Active Ingredient in the Widely Used Molluscicide Bayluscide. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 9(10): e0004131. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004131