Schistosomes cause morbidity and death throughout the developing world due to the massive numbers of eggs female worms deposit into the blood of their host. Studies dating back to the 1920s show that female schistosomes rely on constant physical contact with a male worm both to become and remain sexually mature; however, the molecular details governing this process remain elusive. Here, we uncover a nonribosomal peptide synthetase that is induced in male worms upon pairing with a female and find that it is essential for the ability of male worms to stimulate female development. We demonstrate that this enzyme generates β-alanyl-tryptamine that is released by paired male worms. Furthermore, synthetic β-alanyl-tryptamine can replace male worms to stimulate female sexual development and egg laying. These data reveal that peptide-based pheromone signaling controls female schistosome sexual maturation, suggesting avenues for therapeutic intervention and uncovering a role for nonribosomal peptides as metazoan signaling molecules.
- nonribosomal peptide
- reproductive biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)