Background: Regulatory circuits of infection in the emerging experimental model system, water flea Daphnia and their microparasites, remain largely unknown. Here we provide the first molecular insights into the response of Daphnia galeata to its highly virulent and common parasite Caullerya mesnili, an ichthyosporean that infects the gut epithelium. We generated a transcriptomic dataset using RNAseq from parasite-exposed (vs. control) Daphnia, at two time points (4 and 48 h) after parasite exposure.
Results: We found a down-regulation of metabolism and immunity-related genes, at 48 h (but not 4 h) after parasite exposure. These genes are involved in lipid metabolism and fatty acid biosynthesis, as well as microbe recognition (e.g. c-type lectins) and pathogen attack (e.g. gut chitin).
Conclusions: General metabolic suppression implies host energy shift from reproduction to survival, which is in agreement with the known drastic reduction in Daphnia fecundity after Caullerya infection. The down-regulation of gut chitin indicates a possible interaction between the peritrophic matrix and the evading host immune system. Our study provides the first description of host transcriptional responses in this very promising host-parasite experimental system.