Schistosoma japonicum (S. japonicum) is an extremely harmful pathogen, which infects humans and causes severe public health problems. To date, no effective therapeutic drugs for this pathogen are available. In this study, we designed and constructed three hammerhead ribozymes targeting the eggshell protein gene of S. japonicum (SjESG). The cleavage activities of these three ribozymes were determined using cleavage experiments. The in vitro cleavage results showed that among the three synthesized ribozymes (Rz1, Rz2 and Rz3), Rz1 and Rz3 cleaved their target RNAs effectively. However, Rz2 did not cleave its target RNA detectably. The putative therapeutic roles of these three ribozymes to inhibit the reproduction of S. japonicum in mice were studied in vivo. Compared with the negative controls, Rz1 and Rz3 treatments resulted in increased levels of IFN-γ but decreased levels of IL-4 in mice. Rz2 affected levels of IFN-γ and IL-4 to degrees similar with those caused by the vector controls. In addition, Rz1 and Rz3 reduced the amounts of adult worms and eggs in the livers of mice more extensively than Rz2 and the vector controls. Altogether, these results suggest a correlation between the in vitro cleavage abilities of Rz1 and Rz3 and their roles in reproduction inhibition of S. japonicum.
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