Data may help researchers develop new vaccines and diagnostic tests to distinguish the amoebas most deadly strains
The genome sequence of the parasitic amoeba Entamoeba histolytica, a leading cause of severe diarrheal disease in developing countries, includes an unexpectedly complex repertoire of sensory genes as well as a variety of bacterial-like genes that contribute to the organisms unique biology. The report, which appears in the February 24 issue of Nature, presents the first genome-wide study of an amoeba. It is also the first genome sequence to be published from this class of amitochondrial human pathogens.
The analysis reveals the degradation of the E. histolytica genome in its transition from a free-living organism into a parasite of the human gut. At the same time, scientists also cataloged the retention and expansion of some gene families characteristic of more complex organisms. Detailing the first systematic study of relatively recent horizontal gene transfer into a protist, scientists report evidence in the DNA sequence that E. histolytica likely picked up a significant number of its metabolic genes from bacterial co-inhabitants of the human gut. Identification of these genes sheds new light on the unusual shared biology between the parasitic amoeba and anaerobic gut bacteria.
Robert Koenig | EurekAlert!
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