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Parasites & Vectors


Background: Head louse females secrete liquid glue during oviposition, which is solidified to form the nit sheath over the egg. Recently, two homologous proteins, named louse nit sheath protein (LNSP) 1 and LNSP 2, were identified as adhesive proteins but the precise mechanism of nit sheath solidification is unknown. Methods: We determined the temporal transcriptome profiles of the head louse accessory glands plus oviduct, from which putative major structural proteins and those with functional importance were deduced. A series of RNA interference (RNAi) experiments and treatment of an inhibitor were conducted to elucidate the function and action mechanism of each component. Results: By transcriptome profiling of genes expressed in the louse accessory glands plus uterus, the LNSP1 and LNSP2 along with two hypothetical proteins were confirmed to be the major structural proteins. In addition, several proteins with functional importance, including transglutaminase (TG), defensin 1 and defensin 2, were identified. When LNSP1 was knocked down via RNA interference, most eggs became nonviable via desiccation, suggesting its role in desiccation resistance. Knockdown of LNSP2, however, resulted in oviposition failure, which suggests that LNSP2 may serve as the basic platform to form the nit sheath and may have an additional function of lubrication. Knockdown of TG also impaired egg hatching, demonstrating its role in the cross-linking of nit sheath proteins. The role of TG in cross-linking was further confirmed by injecting or hair coating of GGsTop, a TG inhibitor. Conclusions: Both LNSP1 and LNSP2 are essential for maintaining egg viability besides their function as glue. The TG-mediated cross-linking plays critical roles in water preservation that are essential for ensuring normal embryogenesis. TG-mediated cross-linking mechanism can be employed as a therapeutic target to control human louse eggs, and any topically applied TG inhibitors can be exploited as potential ovicidal agents.









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National Institutes of Health/National Institute for Allergy and Infectious DiseaseUnited States Department of Health & Human ServicesNational Institutes of Health (NIH) - USANIH National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID) [5R01AI045062-06]; Brain Korea 21 Plus program