April 21, 2020  |  

A systematic review of the Trypanosoma cruzi genetic heterogeneity, host immune response and genetic factors as plausible drivers of chronic chagasic cardiomyopathy.

Chagas disease is a complex tropical pathology caused by the kinetoplastid Trypanosoma cruzi. This parasite displays massive genetic diversity and has been classified by international consensus in at least six Discrete Typing Units (DTUs) that are broadly distributed in the American continent. The main clinical manifestation of the disease is the chronic chagasic cardiomyopathy (CCC) that is lethal in the infected individuals. However, one intriguing feature is that only 30-40% of the infected individuals will develop CCC. Some authors have suggested that the immune response, host genetic factors, virulence factors and even the massive genetic heterogeneity of T. cruzi are responsible of this clinical pattern. To date, no conclusive data support the reason why a few percentages of the infected individuals will develop CCC. Therefore, we decided to conduct a systematic review analysing the host genetic factors, immune response, cytokine production, virulence factors and the plausible association of the parasite DTUs and CCC. The epidemiological and clinical implications are herein discussed.


April 21, 2020  |  

The Genome Sequence of the Anthelmintic-Susceptible New Zealand Haemonchus contortus.

Internal parasitic nematodes are a global animal health issue causing drastic losses in livestock. Here, we report a H. contortus representative draft genome to serve as a genetic resource to the scientific community and support future experimental research of molecular mechanisms in related parasites. A de novo hybrid assembly was generated from PCR-free whole genome sequence data, resulting in a chromosome-level assembly that is 465 Mb in size encoding 22,341 genes. The genome sequence presented here is consistent with the genome architecture of the existing Haemonchus species and is a valuable resource for future studies regarding population genetic structures of parasitic nematodes. Additionally, comparative pan-genomics with other species of economically important parasitic nematodes have revealed highly open genomes and strong collinearities within the phylum Nematoda. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

Human Migration and the Spread of the Nematode Parasite Wuchereria bancrofti.

The human disease lymphatic filariasis causes the debilitating effects of elephantiasis and hydrocele. Lymphatic filariasis currently affects the lives of 90 million people in 52 countries. There are three nematodes that cause lymphatic filariasis, Brugia malayi, Brugia timori, and Wuchereria bancrofti, but 90% of all cases of lymphatic filariasis are caused solely by W. bancrofti (Wb). Here we use population genomics to reconstruct the probable route and timing of migration of Wb strains that currently infect Africa, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea (PNG). We used selective whole genome amplification to sequence 42 whole genomes of single Wb worms from populations in Haiti, Mali, Kenya, and PNG. Our results are consistent with a hypothesis of an Island Southeast Asia or East Asian origin of Wb. Our demographic models support divergence times that correlate with the migration of human populations. We hypothesize that PNG was infected at two separate times, first by the Melanesians and later by the migrating Austronesians. The migrating Austronesians also likely introduced Wb to Madagascar where later migrations spread it to continental Africa. From Africa, Wb spread to the New World during the transatlantic slave trade. Genome scans identified 17 genes that were highly differentiated among Wb populations. Among these are genes associated with human immune suppression, insecticide sensitivity, and proposed drug targets. Identifying the distribution of genetic diversity in Wb populations and selection forces acting on the genome will build a foundation to test future hypotheses and help predict response to current eradication efforts. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


April 21, 2020  |  

A Genetically Tractable, Natural Mouse Model of Cryptosporidiosis Offers Insights into Host Protective Immunity.

Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of diarrheal disease and an important contributor to early childhood mortality, malnutrition, and growth faltering. Older children in high endemicity regions appear resistant to infection, while previously unexposed adults remain susceptible. Experimental studies in humans and animals support the development of disease resistance, but we do not understand the mechanisms that underlie protective immunity to Cryptosporidium. Here, we derive an in vivo model of Cryptosporidium infection in immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice by isolating parasites from naturally infected wild mice. Similar to human cryptosporidiosis, this infection causes intestinal pathology, and interferon-? controls early infection while T cells are critical for clearance. Importantly, mice that controlled a live infection were resistant to secondary challenge and vaccination with attenuated parasites provided protection equal to live infection. Both parasite and host are genetically tractable and this in vivo model will facilitate mechanistic investigation and rational vaccine design.Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Insights into the evolution and drug susceptibility of Babesia duncani from the sequence of its mitochondrial and apicoplast genomes.

Babesia microti and Babesia duncani are the main causative agents of human babesiosis in the United States. While significant knowledge about B. microti has been gained over the past few years, nothing is known about B. duncani biology, pathogenesis, mode of transmission or sensitivity to currently recommended therapies. Studies in immunocompetent wild type mice and hamsters have shown that unlike B. microti, infection with B. duncani results in severe pathology and ultimately death. The parasite factors involved in B. duncani virulence remain unknown. Here we report the first known completed sequence and annotation of the apicoplast and mitochondrial genomes of B. duncani. We found that the apicoplast genome of this parasite consists of a 34?kb monocistronic circular molecule encoding functions that are important for apicoplast gene transcription as well as translation and maturation of the organelle’s proteins. The mitochondrial genome of B. duncani consists of a 5.9?kb monocistronic linear molecule with two inverted repeats of 48?bp at both ends. Using the conserved cytochrome b (Cytb) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (coxI) proteins encoded by the mitochondrial genome, phylogenetic analysis revealed that B. duncani defines a new lineage among apicomplexan parasites distinct from B. microti, Babesia bovis, Theileria spp. and Plasmodium spp. Annotation of the apicoplast and mitochondrial genomes of B. duncani identified targets for development of effective therapies. Our studies set the stage for evaluation of the efficacy of these drugs alone or in combination against B. duncani in culture as well as in animal models.Copyright © 2018 Australian Society for Parasitology. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Complete assembly of the Leishmania donovani (HU3 strain) genome and transcriptome annotation.

Leishmania donovani is a unicellular parasite that causes visceral leishmaniasis, a fatal disease in humans. In this study, a complete assembly of the genome of L. donovani is provided. Apart from being the first published genome of this strain (HU3), this constitutes the best assembly for an L. donovani genome attained to date. The use of a combination of sequencing platforms enabled to assemble, without any sequence gap, the 36 chromosomes for this species. Additionally, based on this assembly and using RNA-seq reads derived from poly-A?+?RNA, the transcriptome for this species, not yet available, was delineated. Alternative SL addition sites and heterogeneity in the poly-A addition sites were commonly observed for most of the genes. After a complete annotation of the transcriptome, 2,410 novel transcripts were defined. Additionally, the relative expression for all transcripts present in the promastigote stage was determined. Events of cis-splicing have been documented to occur during the maturation of the transcripts derived from genes LDHU3_07.0430 and LDHU3_29.3990. The complete genome assembly and the availability of the gene models (including annotation of untranslated regions) are important pieces to understand how differential gene expression occurs in this pathogen, and to decipher phenotypic peculiarities like tissue tropism, clinical disease, and drug susceptibility.


April 21, 2020  |  

Long-read sequencing reveals a 4.4 kb tandem repeat region in the mitogenome of Echinococcus granulosus (sensu stricto) genotype G1.

Echinococcus tapeworms cause a severe helminthic zoonosis called echinococcosis. The genus comprises various species and genotypes, of which E. granulosus (sensu stricto) represents a significant global public health and socioeconomic burden. Mitochondrial (mt) genomes have provided useful genetic markers to explore the nature and extent of genetic diversity within Echinococcus and have underpinned phylogenetic and population structure analyses of this genus. Our recent work indicated a sequence gap (>?1 kb) in the mt genomes of E. granulosus genotype G1, which could not be determined by PCR-based Sanger sequencing. The aim of the present study was to define the complete mt genome, irrespective of structural complexities, using a long-read sequencing method.We extracted high molecular weight genomic DNA from protoscoleces from a single cyst of E. granulosus genotype G1 from a sheep from Australia using a conventional method and sequenced it using PacBio Sequel (long-read) technology, complemented by BGISEQ-500 short-read sequencing. Sequence data obtained were assembled using a recently-developed workflow.We assembled a complete mt genome sequence of 17,675 bp, which is >?4 kb larger than the complete mt genomes known for E. granulosus genotype G1. This assembly includes a previously-elusive tandem repeat region, which is 4417 bp long and consists of ten near-identical 441-445 bp repeat units, each harbouring a 184 bp non-coding region and adjacent regions. We also identified a short non-coding region of 183 bp, which includes an inverted repeat.We report what we consider to be the first complete mt genome of E. granulosus genotype G1 and characterise all repeat regions in this genome. The numbers, sizes, sequences and functions of tandem repeat regions remain to be studied in different isolates of genotype G1 and in other genotypes and species. The discovery of such ‘new’ repeat elements in the mt genome of genotype G1 by PacBio sequencing raises a question about the completeness of some published genomes of taeniid cestodes assembled from conventional or short-read sequence datasets. This study shows that long-read sequencing readily overcomes the challenges of assembling repeat elements to achieve improved genomes.


April 21, 2020  |  

Pentatricopeptide repeat poly(A) binding protein KPAF4 stabilizes mitochondrial mRNAs in Trypanosoma brucei.

In Trypanosoma brucei, most mitochondrial mRNAs undergo editing, and 3′ adenylation and uridylation. The internal sequence changes and terminal extensions are coordinated: pre-editing addition of the short (A) tail protects the edited transcript against 3′-5′ degradation, while post-editing A/U-tailing renders mRNA competent for translation. Participation of a poly(A) binding protein (PABP) in coupling of editing and 3′ modification processes has been inferred, but its identity and mechanism of action remained elusive. We report identification of KPAF4, a pentatricopeptide repeat-containing PABP which sequesters the A-tail and impedes mRNA degradation. Conversely, KPAF4 inhibits uridylation of A-tailed transcripts and, therefore, premature A/U-tailing of partially-edited mRNAs. This quality check point likely prevents translation of incompletely edited mRNAs. We also find that RNA editing substrate binding complex (RESC) mediates the interaction between the 5′ end-bound pyrophosphohydrolase MERS1 and 3′ end-associated KPAF4 to enable mRNA circularization. This event appears to be critical for edited mRNA stability.


April 21, 2020  |  

The genome of the soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines) reveals complex patterns of duplications involved in the evolution of parasitism genes.

Heterodera glycines, commonly referred to as the soybean cyst nematode (SCN), is an obligatory and sedentary plant parasite that causes over a billion-dollar yield loss to soybean production annually. Although there are genetic determinants that render soybean plants resistant to certain nematode genotypes, resistant soybean cultivars are increasingly ineffective because their multi-year usage has selected for virulent H. glycines populations. The parasitic success of H. glycines relies on the comprehensive re-engineering of an infection site into a syncytium, as well as the long-term suppression of host defense to ensure syncytial viability. At the forefront of these complex molecular interactions are effectors, the proteins secreted by H. glycines into host root tissues. The mechanisms of effector acquisition, diversification, and selection need to be understood before effective control strategies can be developed, but the lack of an annotated genome has been a major roadblock.Here, we use PacBio long-read technology to assemble a H. glycines genome of 738 contigs into 123?Mb with annotations for 29,769 genes. The genome contains significant numbers of repeats (34%), tandem duplicates (18.7?Mb), and horizontal gene transfer events (151 genes). A large number of putative effectors (431 genes) were identified in the genome, many of which were found in transposons.This advance provides a glimpse into the host and parasite interplay by revealing a diversity of mechanisms that give rise to virulence genes in the soybean cyst nematode, including: tandem duplications containing over a fifth of the total gene count, virulence genes hitchhiking in transposons, and 107 horizontal gene transfers not reported in other plant parasitic nematodes thus far. Through extensive characterization of the H. glycines genome, we provide new insights into H. glycines biology and shed light onto the mystery underlying complex host-parasite interactions. This genome sequence is an important prerequisite to enable work towards generating new resistance or control measures against H. glycines.


April 21, 2020  |  

Progression of the canonical reference malaria parasite genome from 2002-2019.

Here we describe the ways in which the sequence and annotation of the Plasmodium falciparum reference genome has changed since its publication in 2002. As the malaria species responsible for the most deaths worldwide, the richness of annotation and accuracy of the sequence are important resources for the P. falciparum research community as well as the basis for interpreting the genomes of subsequently sequenced species. At the time of publication in 2002 over 60% of predicted genes had unknown functions. As of March 2019, this number has been significantly decreased to 33%. The reduction is due to the inclusion of genes that were subsequently characterised experimentally and genes with significant similarity to others with known functions. In addition, the structural annotation of genes has been significantly refined; 27% of gene structures have been changed since 2002, comprising changes in exon-intron boundaries, addition or deletion of exons and the addition or deletion of genes. The sequence has also undergone significant improvements. In addition to the correction of a large number of single-base and insertion or deletion errors, a major miss-assembly between the subtelomeres of chromosome 7 and 8 has been corrected. As the number of sequenced isolates continues to grow rapidly, a single reference genome will not be an adequate basis for interpretating intra-species sequence diversity. We therefore describe in this publication a population reference genome of P. falciparum, called Pfref1. This reference will enable the community to map to regions that are not present in the current assembly. P. falciparum 3D7 will be continued to be maintained with ongoing curation ensuring continual improvements in annotation quality.


April 21, 2020  |  

Horizontal transfer of a retrotransposon between parasitic nematodes and the common shrew.

As the genomes of more metazoan species are sequenced, reports of horizontal transposon transfers (HTT) have increased. Our understanding of the mechanisms of such events is at an early stage. The close physical relationship between a parasite and its host could facilitate horizontal transfer. To date, two studies have identified horizontal transfer of RTEs, a class of retrotransposable elements, involving parasites: ticks might act as vector for BovB between ruminants and squamates, and AviRTE was transferred between birds and parasitic nematodes.We searched for RTEs shared between nematode and mammalian genomes. Given their physical proximity, it was necessary to detect and remove sequence contamination from the genome datasets, which would otherwise distort the signal of horizontal transfer. We developed an approach that is based on reads instead of genomic sequences to reliably detect contamination. From comparison of 43 RTEs across 197 genomes, we identified a single putative case of horizontal transfer: we detected RTE1_Sar from Sorex araneus, the common shrew, in parasitic nematodes. From the taxonomic distribution and evolutionary analysis, we show that RTE1_Sar was horizontally transferred.We identified a new horizontal RTE transfer in host-parasite interactions, which suggests that it is not uncommon. Further, we present and provide the workflow a read-based method to distinguish between contamination and horizontal transfer.


October 23, 2019  |  

Optimized CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing for Leishmania and its use to target a multigene family, induce chromosomal translocation, and study DNA break repair mechanisms.

CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing has recently been adapted for Leishmania spp. parasites, the causative agents of human leishmaniasis. We have optimized this genome-editing tool by selecting for cells with CRISPR-Cas9 activity through cotargeting the miltefosine transporter gene; mutation of this gene leads to miltefosine resistance. This cotargeting strategy integrated into a triple guide RNA (gRNA) expression vector was used to delete all 11 copies of the A2 multigene family; this was not previously possible with the traditional gene-targeting method. We found that the Leishmania donovani rRNA promoter is more efficient than the U6 promoter in driving gRNA expression, and sequential transfections of the oligonucleotide donor significantly eased the isolation of edited mutants. A gRNA and Cas9 coexpression vector was developed that was functional in all tested Leishmania species, including L. donovani, L. major, and L. mexicana. By simultaneously targeting sites from two different chromosomes, all four types of targeted chromosomal translocations were generated, regardless of the polycistronic transcription direction from the parent chromosomes. It was possible to use this CRISPR system to create a single conserved amino acid substitution (A189G) mutation for both alleles of RAD51, a DNA recombinase involved in homology-directed repair. We found that RAD51 is essential for L. donovani survival based on direct observation of the death of mutants with both RAD51 alleles disrupted, further confirming that this CRISPR system can reveal gene essentiality. Evidence is also provided that microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ) plays a major role in double-strand DNA break repair in L. donovani. IMPORTANCELeishmania parasites cause human leishmaniasis. To accelerate characterization of Leishmania genes for new drug and vaccine development, we optimized and simplified the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tool for Leishmania. We show that co-CRISPR targeting of the miltefosine transporter gene and serial transfections of an oligonucleotide donor significantly eased isolation of edited mutants. This cotargeting strategy was efficiently used to delete all 11 members of the A2 virulence gene family. This technical advancement is valuable, since there are many gene clusters and supernumerary chromosomes in the various Leishmania species and isolates. We simplified this CRISPR system by developing a gRNA and Cas9 coexpression vector which could be used to delete genes in various Leishmania species. This CRISPR system could also be used to generate specific chromosomal translocations, which will help in the study of Leishmania gene expression and transcription control. This study also provides new information about double-strand DNA break repair mechanisms in Leishmania.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparison of the mitochondrial genomes and steady state transcriptomes of two strains of the trypanosomatid parasite, Leishmania tarentolae.

U-insertion/deletion RNA editing is a post-transcriptional mitochondrial RNA modification phenomenon required for viability of trypanosomatid parasites. Small guide RNAs encoded mainly by the thousands of catenated minicircles contain the information for this editing. We analyzed by NGS technology the mitochondrial genomes and transcriptomes of two strains, the old lab UC strain and the recently isolated LEM125 strain. PacBio sequencing provided complete minicircle sequences which avoided the assembly problem of short reads caused by the conserved regions. Minicircles were identified by a characteristic size, the presence of three short conserved sequences, a region of inherently bent DNA and the presence of single gRNA genes at a fairly defined location. The LEM125 strain contained over 114 minicircles encoding different gRNAs and the UC strain only ~24 minicircles. Some LEM125 minicircles contained no identifiable gRNAs. Approximate copy numbers of the different minicircle classes in the network were determined by the number of PacBio CCS reads that assembled to each class. Mitochondrial RNA libraries from both strains were mapped against the minicircle and maxicircle sequences. Small RNA reads mapped to the putative gRNA genes but also to multiple regions outside the genes on both strands and large RNA reads mapped in many cases over almost the entire minicircle on both strands. These data suggest that minicircle transcription is complete and bidirectional, with 3′ processing yielding the mature gRNAs. Steady state RNAs in varying abundances are derived from all maxicircle genes, including portions of the repetitive divergent region. The relative extents of editing in both strains correlated with the presence of a cascade of cognate gRNAs. These data should provide the foundation for a deeper understanding of this dynamic genetic system as well as the evolutionary variation of editing in different strains.


September 22, 2019  |  

Molecular genetic diversity and characterization of conjugation genes in the fish parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.

Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is the etiologic agent of “white spot”, a commercially important disease of freshwater fish. As a parasitic ciliate, I. multifiliis infects numerous host species across a broad geographic range. Although Ichthyophthirius outbreaks are difficult to control, recent sequencing of the I. multifiliis genome has revealed a number of potential metabolic pathways for therapeutic intervention, along with likely vaccine targets for disease prevention. Nonetheless, major gaps exist in our understanding of both the life cycle and population structure of I. multifiliis in the wild. For example, conjugation has never been described in this species, and it is unclear whether I. multifiliis undergoes sexual reproduction, despite the presence of a germline micronucleus. In addition, no good methods exist to distinguish strains, leaving phylogenetic relationships between geographic isolates completely unresolved. Here, we compared nucleotide sequences of SSUrDNA, mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase subunit I and cox-1 genes, and 14 somatic SNP sites from nine I. multifiliis isolates obtained from four different states in the US since 1995. The mitochondrial sequences effectively distinguished the isolates from one another and divided them into at least two genetically distinct groups. Furthermore, none of the nine isolates shared the same composition of the 14 somatic SNP sites, suggesting that I. multifiliis undergoes sexual reproduction at some point in its life cycle. Finally, compared to the well-studied free-living ciliates Tetrahymena thermophila and Paramecium tetraurelia, I. multifiliis has lost 38% and 29%, respectively, of 16 experimentally confirmed conjugation-related genes, indicating that mechanistic differences in sexual reproduction are likely to exist between I. multifiliis and other ciliate species. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Identification of putative coffee rust mycoparasites using single molecule DNA sequencing of infected pustules.

The interaction of crop pests with their natural enemies is a fundament to their control. Natural enemies of fungal pathogens of crops are poorly known relative to those of insect pests despite the diversity of fungal pathogens and their economic importance. Currently, many regions across Latin America are experiencing unprecedented epidemics of coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix). Identification of natural enemies of coffee rust could aid in developing management strategies or in pinpointing species that could be used for biocontrol. Here we characterize fungal communities associated with coffee rust lesions by single molecule DNA sequencing of fungal ribosomal RNA barcodes from leaf discs (˜28 mm(2)) containing rust lesions and control discs with no rust lesions. The leaf disc communities were hyper-diverse in fungi, with up to 57 taxa per control disc, and the diversity was only slightly reduced in rust-infected discs. However, geography had a greater influence on the fungal community than whether the disk was infected by coffee rust. Through comparisons between control and rust-infected leaf discs, as well as taxonomic criteria, we identified 15 putative mycoparasitic fungi. These fungi are concentrated in fungal family Cordycipitaceae and order Tremellales. These data emphasize the complexity of fungal diversity of unknown ecological function within a leaf that might influence plant disease epidemics or lead to the development of species for biocontrol of fungal disease. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


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