Research Highlights | Published:


RNA pockets help parasites to infect

Nature volume 515, page 469 (27 November 2014) | Download Citation

Parasitic worms release tiny sacs filled with small RNAs that disable immune responses in infected mice.

The membrane-bound sacs, or exosomes, sprout from cells and contain proteins and nucleic acids. Amy Buck at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and her team found that the nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus, which infects the mouse gut, produces exosomes containing microRNAs (miRNAs) and 'Y RNAs' that can affect gene expression. The exosomes also carried a protein required to process those RNAs.

Mice exposed to exosomes showed a reduced immune response to an allergen compared to unexposed mice. The sacs also lowered expression of some immune-related genes in mouse cells in a lab dish. Moreover, the animals had miRNA from another worm called Litomosoides sigmodontis in their blood, suggesting that miRNA is secreted by other nematodes.

Nature Commun. 5, 5488 (2014)

About this article

Publication history





    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing