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Parasites and steroid hormones: corticosteroid and sex steroid synthesis, their role in the parasite physiology and development



Parasites and steroid hormones: corticosteroid and sex steroid synthesis, their role in the parasite physiology and development



Frontiers in Neuroscience 9: 224



In many cases parasites display highly complex life cycles that include the penetration and permanence of the larva or adults within host organs, but even in those that only have one host, reciprocal, intricate interactions occur. Evidence indicates that steroid hormones have an influence on the development and course of parasitic infections. The host gender's susceptibility to infection, and the related differences in the immune response are good examples of the host-parasite interplay. However, the capacity of these organisms to synthesize their own steroidogenic hormones still has more questions than answers. It is now well-known that many parasites synthesize ecdysteroids, but limited information is available on sex steroid and corticosteroid synthesis. This review intends to summarize some of the existing information in the field. In most, but not all parasitosis the host's hormonal environment determines the susceptibility, the course, and severity of parasite infections. In most cases the infection disturbs the host environment, and activates immune responses that end up affecting the endocrine system. Furthermore, sex steroids and corticosteroids may also directly modify the parasite reproduction and molting. Available information indicates that parasites synthesize some steroid hormones, such as ecdysteroids and sex steroids, and the presence and activity of related enzymes have been demonstrated. More recently, the synthesis of corticosteroid-like compounds has been shown in Taenia solium cysticerci and tapeworms, and in Taenia crassiceps WFU cysticerci. In-depth knowledge of the parasite's endocrine properties will contribute to understand their reproduction and reciprocal interactions with the host, and may also help designing tools to combat the infection in some clinical situations.

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Accession: 058503442

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PMID: 26175665

DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00224


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