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EGF-mediated EGFR/ERK signaling pathway promotes germinative cell proliferation in Echinococcus multilocularis that contributes to larval growth and development

BACKGROUND:

Larvae of the tapeworm E. multilocularis cause alveolar echinococcosis (AE), one of the most lethal helminthic infections in humans. A population of stem cell-like cells, the germinative cells, is considered to drive the larval growth and development within the host. The molecular mechanisms controlling the behavior of germinative cells are largely unknown.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Using in vitro cultivation systems we show here that the EGFR/ERK signaling in the parasite can promote germinative cell proliferation in response to addition of human EGF, resulting in stimulated growth and development of the metacestode larvae. Inhibition of the signaling by either the EGFR inhibitors CI-1033 and BIBW2992 or the MEK/ERK inhibitor U0126 impairs germinative cell proliferation and larval growth.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

These data demonstrate the contribution of EGF-mediated EGFR/ERK signaling to the regulation of germinative cells in E. multilocularis, and suggest the EGFR/ERK signaling as a potential therapeutic target for AE and perhaps other human cestodiasis.

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