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Cell Microbiol. 2011 Feb;13(2):274-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2010.01534.x. Epub 2010 Oct 21.

FISH analysis reveals aneuploidy and continual generation of chromosomal mosaicism in Leishmania major.

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Université Montpellier 1, UFR Médecine, Laboratoire de Parasitologie-Mycologie, Montpellier, France.


The protozoan parasite Leishmania is generally considered to be diploid, although a few chromosomes have been described as aneuploid. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), we determined the number of homologous chromosomes per individual cell in L. major (i) during interphase and (ii) during mitosis. We show that, in Leishmania, aneuploidy appears to be the rule, as it affects all the chromosomes that we studied. Moreover, every chromosome was observed in at least two ploidy states, among monosomic, disomic or trisomic, in the cell population. This variable chromosomal ploidy among individual cells generates intra-strain heterogeneity, here precisely chromosomal mosaicism. We also show that this mosaicism, hence chromosome ploidy distribution, is variable among clones and strains. Finally, when we examined dividing nuclei, we found a surprisingly high rate of asymmetric chromosome allotments, showing that the transmission of genetic material during mitosis is highly unstable in this 'divergent' eukaryote: this leads to continual generation of chromosomal mosaicism. Using these results, we propose a model for the occurrence and persistence of this mosaicism. We discuss the implications of this additional unique feature of Leishmania for its biology and genetics, in particular as a novel genetic mechanism to generate phenotypic variability from genomic plasticity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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