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Int J Parasitol. 2004 Sep;34(10):1185-96.

Genetic diversity, clonality and sexuality in Toxoplasma gondii.

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Laboratoire de Parasitologie-Mycologie, EA3174, Faculté de Médecine, 2 rue du Dr Marcland, 87031 Limoges, France.


The majority of Toxoplasma gondii strains from a variety of human and animal sources have been grouped into three highly clonal but closely related lineages. The low occurrence of nucleotide differences among the three predominant lineages and their unusual dimorphic allelic composition suggest that they have arisen from a recent common ancestry. Less than 1% of the previously studied strains contain unique genotypes and high divergence of DNA sequence, and therefore are considered 'exotic' or 'atypical' strains. The seemingly low genetic diversity in T. gondii may have been underestimated because most parasite strains in previous studies were collected from human patients and domestic animals in North America and Europe. To investigate the genetic diversity of T. gondii, we analysed parasite strains isolated from remote geographical regions by multilocus microsatellite sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. The genetic diversity indices, the molecular analysis of microsatellite genotypes and the constructed phylogram considered together suggest that the global T. gondii population is highly diversified and not characteristic of a clonal organism. The most parsimonious hypothesis is that T. gondii presents a complex population structure with a mix of clonal and sexual propagation as a function of the environmental conditions. The comparison between domestic strains data on one hand and wild strains data on the other hand is in favour of more frequent sexual recombinations in wild environment even though Toxoplasma subpopulation in human and domestic animals is largely clonal.

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