The genetic programmes associated with the sexual biology of dioecious schistosomes remain a critically important but significantly understudied area of parasitology. Throughout the last four decades, progress has been slow in describing the gross antigenic and proteomic differences linked to sexually mature schistosomes and in characterizing some of the sex-associated transcripts and regulatory mechanisms induced during developmental maturation. These investigations have been severely hindered by the lack of complete EST/genomic information, as well as corresponding post- and functional-genomic tools for studying these pathogenic parasites. As near complete transcriptomes for Schistosoma japonicum and S. mansoni have recently been reported, and both DNA microarrays and post-transcriptional gene silencing have been applied to schistosomes, the tools and techniques for the high-throughput identification and characterization of transcripts involved in conjugal biology are now readily available. Here, an historical review is presented that summarizes some of the most significant findings associated with schistosome sex and sexual maturation during the last several decades. Following this discussion is a current overview of some modern day genomic approaches used to study schistosomes, which illustrates how major advances in the field of conjugal biology will be achieved.
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