The transcription factor NHR-8: A new target to increase ivermectin efficacy in nematodes

by Cécile Ménez, Mélanie Alberich, Elise Courtot, Fabrice Guegnard, Alexandra Blanchard, Hugo Aguilaniu, Anne Lespine

Resistance to the anthelmintic macrocyclic lactone ivermectin (IVM) has a great impact on the control of parasitic nematodes. The mechanisms by which nematodes adapt to IVM remain to be deciphered. We have identified NHR-8, a nuclear hormone receptor involved in the xenobiotic response in Caenorhabditis elegans, as a new regulator of tolerance to IVM. Loss-of-function nhr-8(ok186) C. elegans mutants subjected to larval development assays and electropharyngeogram measurements, displayed hypersensitivity to IVM, and silencing of nhr-8 in IVM-resistant worms increased IVM efficacy. In addition, compared to wild-type worms, nhr-8 mutants under IVM selection pressure failed to acquire tolerance to the drug. In addition, IVM-hypersensitive nhr-8(ok186) worms displayed low transcript levels of several genes from the xenobiotic detoxification network and a concomitant low Pgp-mediated drug efflux activity. Interestingly, some pgp and cyp genes known to impact IVM tolerance in many nematode species, were down regulated in nhr-8 mutants and inversely upregulated in IVM-resistant worms. Moreover, pgp-6 overexpression in nhr-8(ok186) C. elegans increased tolerance to IVM. Importantly, NHR-8 function was rescued in nhr-8(ok186) C. elegans with the homolog of the parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus, and silencing of Hco-nhr-8 by RNAi on L2 H. contortus larvae increased IVM susceptibility in both susceptible and resistant H. contortus isolates. Thus, our data show that NHR-8 controls the tolerance and development of resistance to IVM in C. elegans and the molecular basis for this relates to the NHR-8-mediated upregulation of IVM detoxification genes. Since our results show that Hconhr-8 functions similarly to Celnhr-8, this study helps to better understand mechanisms underlying failure in drug efficacy and open perspectives in finding new compounds with NHR-8 antagonist activity to potentiate IVM efficacy.

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