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Eukaryot Cell. 2007 Feb;6(2):198-210. Epub 2006 Dec 1.

Transmembrane molecules for phylogenetic analyses of pathogenic protists: Leishmania-specific informative sites in hydrophilic loops of trans- endoplasmic reticulum N-acetylglucosamine-1-phosphate transferase.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology/Immunology, Chicago Medical School, Rosalind Franklin University, North Chicago, IL 60064, USA.


A sequence database was created for the Leishmania N-acetylglucosamine-1-phosphate transferase (nagt) gene from 193 independent isolates. PCR products of this single-copy gene were analyzed for restriction fragment length polymorphism based on seven nagt sequences initially available. We subsequently sequenced 77 samples and found 19 new variants (genotypes). Alignment of all 26 nagt sequences is gap free, except for a single codon addition or deletion. Phylogenetic analyses of the sequences allow grouping the isolates into three subgenera, each consisting of recognized species complexes, i.e., subgenus Leishmania (L. amazonensis-L. mexicana, L. donovani-L. infantum, L. tropica, L. major, and L. turanica-L. gerbilli), subgenus Viannia (L. braziliensis, L. panamensis), and one unclassified (L. enriettii) species. This hierarchy of grouping is also supported by sequence analyses of selected samples for additional single-copy genes present on different chromosomes. Intraspecies divergence of nagt varies considerably with different species complexes. Interestingly, species complexes with less subspecies divergence are more widely distributed than those that are more divergent. The relevance of this to Leishmania evolutionary adaptation is discussed. Heterozygosity of subspecies variants contributes to intraspecies diversity, which is prominent in L. tropica but not in L. donovani-L. infantum. This disparity is thought to result from the genetic recombination of the respective species at different times as a rare event during their predominantly clonal evolution. Phylogenetically useful sites of nagt are restricted largely to several extended hydrophilic loops predicted from hypothetical models of Leishmania NAGT as an endoplasmic reticulum transmembrane protein. In silico analyses of nagt from fungi and other protozoa further illustrate the potential value of this and, perhaps, other similar transmembrane molecules for phylogenetic analyses of single-cell eukaryotes.

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