Small and intermediate size structural RNAs in the unicellular parasite Cryptosporidium parvum as revealed by sRNA-seq and comparative genomics
Small and intermediate-size noncoding RNAs (sRNAs and is-ncRNAs) have been shown to play important regulatory roles in the development of several eukaryotic organisms. However, they have not been thoroughly explored in Cryptosporidium parvum, an obligate zoonotic protist parasite responsible for the diarrhoeal disease cryptosporidiosis. Using Illumina sequencing of a small RNA library, a systematic identification of novel small and is-ncRNAs was performed in C. parvum excysted sporozoites. A total of 79 novel is-ncRNA candidates, including antisense, intergenic and intronic is-ncRNAs, were identified, including 7 new small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs). Expression of select novel is-ncRNAs was confirmed by RT-PCR. Phylogenetic conservation was analysed using covariance models (CMs) in related Cryptosporidium and apicomplexan parasite genome sequences. A potential new type of small ncRNA derived from tRNA fragments was observed. Overall, a deep profiling analysis of novel is-ncRNAs in C. parvum and related species revealed structural features and conservation of these novel is-ncRNAs. Covariance models can be used to detect is-ncRNA genes in other closely related parasites. These findings provide important new sequences for additional functional characterization of novel is-ncRNAs in the protist pathogen C. parvum.