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Trends Genet. 2009 May;25(5):203-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2009.03.006. Epub 2009 Apr 8.

How to become a parasite - lessons from the genomes of nematodes.

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  • 1Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstrasse 37, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


The phylum Nematoda is biologically diverse; it includes parasites of plants and animals in addition to free-living taxa. To date, the genomes of six nematodes have been sequenced. Comparative analyses of these ecologically diverse nematodes are beginning to reveal the mechanisms by which parasites arise and how they evolve. Here, we discuss some emerging principles for the mechanisms and evolution of parasitism. First, horizontal gene transfer represents a common theme in nematode parasites. Second, the human parasite Brugia malayi lost otherwise essential genes most probably owing to the mutualistic relationship with a bacterial endosymbiont. Finally, some parasitic features evolved under free-living conditions. A recent study revealed a conserved endocrine mechanism controlling the formation of dauer and infective larvae in nematodes.

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