April 21, 2020  |  

In-depth analysis of the genome of Trypanosoma evansi, an etiologic agent of surra.

Trypanosoma evansi is the causative agent of the animal trypanosomiasis surra, a disease with serious economic burden worldwide. The availability of the genome of its closely related parasite Trypanosoma brucei allows us to compare their genetic and evolutionarily shared and distinct biological features. The complete genomic sequence of the T. evansi YNB strain was obtained using a combination of genomic and transcriptomic sequencing, de novo assembly, and bioinformatic analysis. The genome size of the T. evansi YNB strain was 35.2 Mb, showing 96.59% similarity in sequence and 88.97% in scaffold alignment with T. brucei. A total of 8,617 protein-coding genes, accounting for 31% of the genome, were predicted. Approximately 1,641 alternative splicing events of 820 genes were identified, with a majority mediated by intron retention, which represented a major difference in post-transcriptional regulation between T. evansi and T. brucei. Disparities in gene copy number of the variant surface glycoprotein, expression site-associated genes, microRNAs, and RNA-binding protein were clearly observed between the two parasites. The results revealed the genomic determinants of T. evansi, which encoded specific biological characteristics that distinguished them from other related trypanosome species.


April 21, 2020  |  

Effective approaches to study the plant-root knot nematode interaction.

Plant-parasitic nematodes cause major agricultural losses worldwide. Examining the molecular mechanisms underlying plant-nematode interactions and how plants respond to different invading pathogens is attracting major attention to reduce the expanding gap between agricultural production and the needs of the growing world population. This review summarizes the most recent developments in plant-nematode interactions and the diverse approaches used to improve plant resistance against root knot nematode (RKN). We will emphasize the recent rapid advances in genome sequencing technologies, small interfering RNA techniques (RNAi) and targeted genome editing which are contributing to the significant progress in understanding the plant-nematode interaction mechanisms. Also, molecular approaches to improve plant resistance against nematodes are considered.Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.


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.


September 22, 2019  |  

Rewired RNAi-mediated genome surveillance in house dust mites.

House dust mites are common pests with an unusual evolutionary history, being descendants of a parasitic ancestor. Transition to parasitism is frequently accompanied by genome rearrangements, possibly to accommodate the genetic change needed to access new ecology. Transposable element (TE) activity is a source of genomic instability that can trigger large-scale genomic alterations. Eukaryotes have multiple transposon control mechanisms, one of which is RNA interference (RNAi). Investigation of the dust mite genome failed to identify a major RNAi pathway: the Piwi-associated RNA (piRNA) pathway, which has been replaced by a novel small-interfering RNA (siRNA)-like pathway. Co-opting of piRNA function by dust mite siRNAs is extensive, including establishment of TE control master loci that produce siRNAs. Interestingly, other members of the Acari have piRNAs indicating loss of this mechanism in dust mites is a recent event. Flux of RNAi-mediated control of TEs highlights the unusual arc of dust mite evolution.


September 22, 2019  |  

Comparative heterochromatin profiling reveals conserved and unique epigenome signatures linked to adaptation and development of malaria parasites.

Heterochromatin-dependent gene silencing is central to the adaptation and survival of Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites, allowing clonally variant gene expression during blood infection in humans. By assessing genome-wide heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) occupancy, we present a comprehensive analysis of heterochromatin landscapes across different Plasmodium species, strains, and life cycle stages. Common targets of epigenetic silencing include fast-evolving multi-gene families encoding surface antigens and a small set of conserved HP1-associated genes with regulatory potential. Many P. falciparum heterochromatic genes are marked in a strain-specific manner, increasing the parasite’s adaptive capacity. Whereas heterochromatin is strictly maintained during mitotic proliferation of asexual blood stage parasites, substantial heterochromatin reorganization occurs in differentiating gametocytes and appears crucial for the activation of key gametocyte-specific genes and adaptation of erythrocyte remodeling machinery. Collectively, these findings provide a catalog of heterochromatic genes and reveal conserved and specialized features of epigenetic control across the genus Plasmodium. Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

Repeat-driven generation of antigenic diversity in a major human pathogen, Trypanosoma cruzi

Trypanosoma cruzi, a zoonotic kinetoplastid protozoan with a complex genome, is the causative agent of American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease). The parasite uses a highly diverse repertoire of surface molecules, with roles in cell invasion, immune evasion and pathogenesis. Thus far, the genomic regions containing these genes have been impossible to resolve and it has been impossible to study the structure and function of the several thousand repetitive genes encoding the surface molecules of the parasite. We here present an improved genome assembly of a T. cruzi clade I (TcI) strain using high coverage PacBio single molecule sequencing, together with Illumina sequencing of 34 T. cruzi TcI isolates and clones from different geographic locations, sample sources and clinical outcomes. Resolution of the surface molecule gene structure reveals an unusual duality in the organisation of the parasite genome, a core genomic region syntenous with related protozoa flanked by unique and highly plastic subtelomeric regions encoding surface antigens. The presence of abundant interspersed retrotransposons in the subtelomeres suggests that these elements are involved in a recombination mechanism for the generation of antigenic variation and evasion of the host immune response. The comparative genomic analysis of the cohort of TcI strains revealed multiple cases of such recombination events involving surface molecule genes and has provided new insights into T. cruzi population structure.


September 22, 2019  |  

RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine mismatch observed among Plasmodium falciparum isolates from southern and central Africa and globally.

The RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine encompasses the central repeats and C-terminal of Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (PfCSP). Although no Phase II clinical trial studies observed evidence of strain-specific immunity, recent studies show a decrease in vaccine efficacy against non-vaccine strain parasites. In light of goals to reduce malaria morbidity, anticipating the effectiveness of RTS,S/AS01 is critical to planning widespread vaccine introduction. We deep sequenced C-terminal Pfcsp from 77 individuals living along the international border in Luapula Province, Zambia and Haut-Katanga Province, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and compared translated amino acid haplotypes to the 3D7 vaccine strain. Only 5.2% of the 193 PfCSP sequences from the Zambia-DRC border region matched 3D7 at all 84 amino acids. To further contextualize the genetic diversity sampled in this study with global PfCSP diversity, we analyzed an additional 3,809 Pfcsp sequences from the Pf3k database and constructed a haplotype network representing 15 countries from Africa and Asia. The diversity observed in our samples was similar to the diversity observed in the global haplotype network. These observations underscore the need for additional research assessing genetic diversity in P. falciparum and the impact of PfCSP diversity on RTS,S/AS01 efficacy.


September 22, 2019  |  

The genome sequence of “Candidatus Fokinia solitaria”: Insights on reductive evolution in Rickettsiales.

Candidatus Fokinia solitaria is an obligate intracellular endosymbiont of a unicellular eukaryote, a ciliate of the genus Paramecium. Here, we present the genome sequence of this bacterium and subsequent analysis. Phylogenomic analysis confirmed the previously reported positioning of the symbiont within the “Candidatus Midichloriaceae” family (order Rickettsiales), as well as its high sequence divergence from other members of the family, indicative of fast sequence evolution. Consistently with this high evolutionary rate, a comparative genomic analysis revealed that the genome of this symbiont is the smallest of the Rickettsiales to date. The reduced genome does not present flagellar genes, nor the pathway for the biosynthesis of lipopolysaccharides (present in all the other so far sequenced members of the family “Candidatus Midichloriaceae”) or genes for the Krebs cycle (present, although not always complete, in Rickettsiales). These results indicate an evolutionary trend toward a stronger dependence on the host, in comparison with other members of the family. Two alternative scenarios are compatible with our results; “Candidatus Fokinia solitaria” could be either a recently evolved, vertically transmitted mutualist, or a parasite with a high host-specificity.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genomes of all known members of a Plasmodium subgenus reveal paths to virulent human malaria.

Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent agent of human malaria, shares a recent common ancestor with the gorilla parasite Plasmodium praefalciparum. Little is known about the other gorilla- and chimpanzee-infecting species in the same (Laverania) subgenus as P. falciparum, but none of them are capable of establishing repeated infection and transmission in humans. To elucidate underlying mechanisms and the evolutionary history of this subgenus, we have generated multiple genomes from all known Laverania species. The completeness of our dataset allows us to conclude that interspecific gene transfers, as well as convergent evolution, were important in the evolution of these species. Striking copy number and structural variations were observed within gene families and one, stevor, shows a host-specific sequence pattern. The complete genome sequence of the closest ancestor of P. falciparum enables us to estimate the timing of the beginning of speciation to be 40,000-60,000 years ago followed by a population bottleneck around 4,000-6,000 years ago. Our data allow us also to search in detail for the features of P. falciparum that made it the only member of the Laverania able to infect and spread in humans.


September 22, 2019  |  

The African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) genome unites the two ancestral ingredients for making vertebrate sex chromosomes

Heteromorphic sex chromosomes have evolved repeatedly among vertebrate lineages despite largely deleterious reductions in gene dose. Understanding how this gene dose problem is overcome is hampered by the lack of genomic information at the base of tetrapods and comparisons across the evolutionary history of vertebrates. To address this problem, we produced a chromosome-level genome assembly for the African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus)–an amphibian with heteromorphic ZW sex chromosomes–and discovered that the Bullfrog Z is surprisingly homologous to substantial portions of the human X. Using this new reference genome, we identified ancestral synteny among the sex chromosomes of major vertebrate lineages, showing that non-mammalian sex chromosomes are strongly associated with a single vertebrate ancestral chromosome, while mammals are associated with another that displays increased haploinsufficiency. The sex chromosomes of the African Bullfrog however, share genomic blocks with both humans and non-mammalian vertebrates, connecting the two ancestral chromosome sequences that repeatedly characterize vertebrate sex chromosomes. Our results highlight the consistency of sex-linked sequences despite sex determination system lability and reveal the repeated use of two major genomic sequence blocks during vertebrate sex chromosome evolution.


September 22, 2019  |  

Genetic diversity of Cryptosporidium hominis in a Bangladeshi community as revealed by whole genome sequencing.

We studied the genetic diversity of Cryptosporidium hominis infections in slum-dwelling infants from Dhaka over a 2-year period. Cryptosporidium hominis infections were common during the monsoon, and were genetically diverse as measured by gp60 genotyping and whole-genome resequencing. Recombination in the parasite was evidenced by the decay of linkage disequilibrium in the genome over <300 bp. Regions of the genome with high levels of polymorphism were also identified. Yet to be determined is if genomic diversity is responsible in part for the high rate of reinfection, seasonality, and varied clinical presentations of cryptosporidiosis in this population.


September 22, 2019  |  

Plasmodium vivax-like genome sequences shed new insights into Plasmodium vivax biology and evolution.

Although Plasmodium vivax is responsible for the majority of malaria infections outside Africa, little is known about its evolution and pathway to humans. Its closest genetic relative, P. vivax-like, was discovered in African great apes and is hypothesized to have given rise to P. vivax in humans. To unravel the evolutionary history and adaptation of P. vivax to different host environments, we generated using long- and short-read sequence technologies 2 new P. vivax-like reference genomes and 9 additional P. vivax-like genotypes. Analyses show that the genomes of P. vivax and P. vivax-like are highly similar and colinear within the core regions. Phylogenetic analyses clearly show that P. vivax-like parasites form a genetically distinct clade from P. vivax. Concerning the relative divergence dating, we show that the evolution of P. vivax in humans did not occur at the same time as the other agents of human malaria, thus suggesting that the transfer of Plasmodium parasites to humans happened several times independently over the history of the Homo genus. We further identify several key genes that exhibit signatures of positive selection exclusively in the human P. vivax parasites. Two of these genes have been identified to also be under positive selection in the other main human malaria agent, P. falciparum, thus suggesting their key role in the evolution of the ability of these parasites to infect humans or their anthropophilic vectors. Finally, we demonstrate that some gene families important for red blood cell (RBC) invasion (a key step of the life cycle of these parasites) have undergone lineage-specific evolution in the human parasite (e.g., reticulocyte-binding proteins [RBPs]).


September 22, 2019  |  

PacBio-based mitochondrial genome assembly of Leucaena trichandra (Leguminosae) and an intrageneric assessment of mitochondrial RNA editing.

Reconstructions of vascular plant mitochondrial genomes (mt-genomes) are notoriously complicated by rampant recombination that has resulted in comparatively few plant mt-genomes being available. The dearth of plant mitochondrial resources has limited our understanding of mt-genome structural diversity, complex patterns of RNA editing, and the origins of novel mt-genome elements. Here, we use an efficient long read (PacBio) iterative assembly pipeline to generate mt-genome assemblies for Leucaena trichandra (Leguminosae: Caesalpinioideae: mimosoid clade), providing the first assessment of non-papilionoid legume mt-genome content and structure to date. The efficiency of the assembly approach facilitated the exploration of alternative structures that are common place among plant mitochondrial genomes. A compact version (729 kbp) of the recovered assemblies was used to investigate sources of mt-genome size variation among legumes and mt-genome sequence similarity to the legume associated root holoparasite Lophophytum. The genome and an associated suite of transcriptome data from select species of Leucaena permitted an in-depth exploration of RNA editing in a diverse clade of closely related species that includes hybrid lineages. RNA editing in the allotetraploid, Leucaena leucocephala, is consistent with co-option of nearly equal maternal and paternal C-to-U edit components, generating novel combinations of RNA edited sites. A preliminary investigation of L. leucocephala C-to-U edit frequencies identified the potential for a hybrid to generate unique pools of alleles from parental variation through edit frequencies shared with one parental lineage, those intermediate between parents, and transgressive patterns.


September 22, 2019  |  

Evolutionary history of human Plasmodium vivax revealed by genome-wide analyses of related ape parasites.

Wild-living African apes are endemically infected with parasites that are closely related to human Plasmodium vivax, a leading cause of malaria outside Africa. This finding suggests that the origin of P. vivax was in Africa, even though the parasite is now rare in humans there. To elucidate the emergence of human P. vivax and its relationship to the ape parasites, we analyzed genome sequence data of P. vivax strains infecting six chimpanzees and one gorilla from Cameroon, Gabon, and Côte d’Ivoire. We found that ape and human parasites share nearly identical core genomes, differing by only 2% of coding sequences. However, compared with the ape parasites, human strains of P. vivax exhibit about 10-fold less diversity and have a relative excess of nonsynonymous nucleotide polymorphisms, with site-frequency spectra suggesting they are subject to greatly relaxed purifying selection. These data suggest that human P. vivax has undergone an extreme bottleneck, followed by rapid population expansion. Investigating potential host-specificity determinants, we found that ape P. vivax parasites encode intact orthologs of three reticulocyte-binding protein genes (rbp2d, rbp2e, and rbp3), which are pseudogenes in all human P. vivax strains. However, binding studies of recombinant RBP2e and RBP3 proteins to human, chimpanzee, and gorilla erythrocytes revealed no evidence of host-specific barriers to red blood cell invasion. These data suggest that, from an ancient stock of P. vivax parasites capable of infecting both humans and apes, a severely bottlenecked lineage emerged out of Africa and underwent rapid population growth as it spread globally. Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


September 22, 2019  |  

Exploring benzimidazole resistance in Haemonchus contortus by next generation sequencing and droplet digital PCR.

Anthelmintic resistance in gastrointestinal nematode (GIN) parasites of grazing ruminants is on the rise in countries across the world. Haemonchus contortus is one of most frequently encountered drug-resistant GINs in small ruminants. This blood-sucking abomasal nematode contributes to massive treatment costs and poses a serious threat to farm animal health. To prevent the establishment of resistant strains of this parasite, up-to-date molecular techniques need to be proposed which would allow for quick, cheap and accurate identification of individuals infected with resistant worms. The effort has been made in the previous decade, with the development of the pyrosequencing method to detect resistance-predicting alleles. Here we propose a novel droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) assay for rapid and precise identification of H. contortus strains as being resistant or susceptible to benzimidazole drugs based on the presence or absence of the most common resistance-conferring mutation F200Y (TAC) in the ß tubulin isotype 1 gene. The newly developed ddPCR assay was first optimized and validated utilizing DNA templates from single-worm samples, which were previously sequenced using the next generation PacBio RSII Sequencing (NGS) platform. Subsequent NGS results for faecal larval cultures were then used as a reference to compare the obtained values for fractional abundances of the resistance-determining mutant allele between ddPCR and NGS techniques in each sample. Both methods managed to produce highly similar results and ddPCR proved to be a reliable tool which, when utilized at full capacity, can be used to create a powerful mutation detection and quantification assay. Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.


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