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Liver parasite lacks key genes for fatty acid synthesis: Genome sequencing of Clonorchis sinensis

The human liver fluke Clonorchis sinensis affects more than 35 million people in South East Asia and 15 million in China. Infection by this parasite causes clonorchiasis.

Repeated or chronic infection can lead to serious disease of the liver, gall bladder or bile ducts, including the frequently fatal bile duct cancer - cholangiocarcinoma (CCA). The complete genome sequence the genome of C. sinensis, published in BioMed Central's open access journal Genome Biology, has provided insight into the biochemical pathways available to the fluke and shows that they are lacking enzymes required for fatty acid biosynthesis.

C. sinensis has a complex lifestyle. The eggs float in fresh water until eaten by snail. Once inside the snail they develop and grow into a free swimming stage. These burrow out of the snail and into a fish where the coat themselves in an acid resistant covering. Humans and other mammals are infected by the parasite by eating uncooked fish. Once in the small intestine the flukes migrate to the bile ducts in the liver where they live out their adult lives.

Over 16,250 genes were found within the 516Mb genome (the human genome has about 23,000 genes over 3Gb of DNA). Genes were found corresponding to genes for energy metabolism, both aerobic (used by the juveniles) and anaerobic (used by the adults). While the genes coding for proteins needed for fatty acid metabolism were all present, key enzymes were missing from fatty acid synthesis.

Prof Xinbing Yu, who led the team which performed this work, explained that, "Two other liver flukes S.Japonicum and S. Mansoni are also missing these enzymes. This means that liver flukes evolved to use their host's fatty acids before the species separated." Prof Xinbing concludes, "Genomic information is not only able to help us understand evolution but the sequence of C. sinensis is helping us understand liver fluke biology. This in turn will help find new ways of controlling diseases caused by this parasite or provide new targets for making a vaccine."

Notes to Editors

1. The draft genome of the carcinogenic human liver fluke Clonorchis sinensis
Xiaoyun Wang, Wenjun Chen, Yan Huang, Jiufeng Sun, Jingtao Men, Hailiang Liu, Fang Luo, Lei Guo, Xiaoli Lv, Chuanhuan Deng, Chenhui Zhou, Yongxiu Fan, Xuerong Li, Lisi Huang, Yue Hu, Chi Liang, Xuchu Hu, Jin Xu, Xinbing Yu

Genome Biology (in press)

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at on the day of publication.

2. Genome Biology is an Open Access, peer reviewed journal that publishes research articles, new methods and software tools, in addition to reviews and opinions, from the full spectrum of biology, including molecular, cellular, organism or population biology studied from a genomic perspective, as well as sequence analysis, bioinformatics, proteomics, comparative biology and evolution.

3. BioMed Central ( is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

Dr. Hilary Glover | EurekAlert!
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