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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2002 Jan 29; 357(1417): 89–99.
PMCID: PMC1692923

Genetic analysis of phenotype in Trypanosoma brucei: a classical approach to potentially complex traits.


The genome of the African trypanosome, Trypanosoma brucei, is currently being sequenced, raising the question of how the data generated can be used to determine the function of the large number of genes that will be identified. There is a range of possible approaches, and in this paper we discuss the use of a classical genetic approach coupled with positional cloning based on the ability of trypanosomes to undergo genetic exchange. The genetics of these parasites is essentially similar to a conventional diploid Mendelian system with allelic segregation and an independent assortment of markers on different chromosomes. Data are presented showing that recombination occurs between markers on the same chromosome allowing the physical size of the unit of recombination to be determined. Analysis of the available progeny clones from a series of crosses shows that, in principal, large numbers of progeny can readily be isolated from existing cryopreserved products of mating and, taking these findings together, it is clear that genetic mapping of variable phenotypes is feasible. The available phenotypes for analysis are outlined and most are relevant to the transmission and pathogenesis of the parasite. Genetic maps from two crosses are presented based on the use of the technique of AFLP; these maps comprise 146 and 139 markers in 30 and 21 linkage groups respectively. Segregation distortion is exhibited by some of the linkage groups and the possible reasons for this are discussed. The general conclusion, from the results presented, is that a genetic-mapping approach is feasible and will, in the future, allow the genes determining a number of important traits to be identified.

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Selected References

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