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Int J Parasitol. 2004 Mar 9;34(3):265-74.

A first glimpse into the pattern and scale of gene transfer in Apicomplexa.

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Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, University of Georgia, 623 Biological Sciences, Athens, GA 30602-2606, USA.


Reports of plant-like and bacterial-like genes for a number of parasitic organisms, most notably those within the Apicomplexa and Kinetoplastida, have appeared in the literature over the last few years. Among the apicomplexan organisms, following discovery of the apicomplexan plastid (apicoplast), the discovery of plant-like genes was less surprising although the extent of transfer and the relationship of transferred genes to the apicoplast remained unclear. We used new genome sequence data to begin a systematic examination of the extent and origin of transferred genes in the Apicomplexa combined with a phylogenomic approach to detect potential gene transfers in four apicomplexan genomes. We have detected genes of algal nuclear, chloroplast (cyanobacterial) and proteobacterial origin. Plant-like genes were detected in species not currently harbouring a plastid (e.g. Cryptosporidium parvum) and putatively transferred genes were detected that appear to be unrelated to the function of the apicoplast. While the mechanism of acquisition for many of the identified genes is not certain, it appears that some were most likely acquired via intracellular gene transfer from an algal endosymbiont while others may have been acquired via horizontal gene transfer.

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