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Trends Parasitol. 2012 Sep;28(9):370-6. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Jul 11.

Adaptive mechanisms in pathogens: universal aneuploidy in Leishmania.

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Unit of Molecular Parasitology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium.


Genomic stability and maintenance of the correct chromosome number are assumed to be essential for normal development in eukaryotes. Aneuploidy is usually associated with severe abnormalities and decrease of cell fitness, but some organisms appear to rely on aneuploidy for rapid adaptation to changing environments. This phenomenon is mostly described in pathogenic fungi and cancer cells. However, recent genome studies highlight the importance of Leishmania as a new model for studies on aneuploidy. Several reports revealed extensive variation in chromosome copy number, indicating that aneuploidy is a constitutive feature of this protozoan parasite genus. Aneuploidy appears to be beneficial in organisms that are primarily asexual, unicellular, and that undergo sporadic epidemic expansions, including common pathogens as well as cancer.

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