[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: ESTs constitute rapid and informative tools with which to study gene-expression profiles of the diverse stages of the schistosome life cycle. Following a comprehensive EST study of adult worms, analysis has now targeted the cercaria, the parasite larval form responsible for infection of the vertebrate host. Two Schistosoma mansoni cercarial cDNA libraries were examined and partial sequence obtained from 957 randomly selected clones. On the basis of database searches, 551 (57.6%) ESTs generated had no homologs in the public databases whilst 308 (32.2%) were putatively identified, totaling 859 informative ESTs. The remaining 98 (10.2%) were uninformative ESTs (ribosomal RNA and non-coding mitochondrial sequences). By clustering analysis we have identified 453 different genes. The most common sequences in both libraries represented Sm8 calcium binding protein (8% of ESTs), fructose-1,6-bisphosphate aldolase, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, cytochrome oxidase subunit 1, ATP guanidine kinase and triose phosphate isomerase. One hundred and nineteen identified genes were sorted into 11 functional categories, with genes associated with energy metabolism being the most abundant (13%) and diverse. The diversity and abundance of genes associated with the transcription/translation machinery and with regulatory/signaling functions were also marked. A paramyosin transcript was identified, indicating that this gene is not exclusively expressed in adult worms and sporocysts (as had been suggested previously). The possible physiological relevance to cercariae of the presence of transcripts with homology to calcium binding proteins of the EF-hand superfamily, Gq-coupled rhodopsin photoreceptor, rod phosphodiesterase 8 subunit and peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor is discussed.