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Reductive evolution of parasite genomes with a focus on the microsporidian Trachipleistophora hominis

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Genetically profiling a deadly parasite

Microsporidia are opportunistic parasitic infections which attack immuno-compromised individuals. Understanding their structure and how they function will help combat them and save lives.


Microsporidia attack the intestines of immuno-compromised individuals, such as AIDS sufferers, causing diarrhoea and wasting. Trachipleistophora hominis is one kind of microsporidia. Recent data has shown that it is a highly reduced fungus with a particular type of mitochondria called mitosomes. The EU-funded Trahomgen project sought to compare the newly sequenced genome of T. hominis with published genome sequences from other microsporidians. The aim was to uncover the relative degree of reductive genome evolution undergone by various microsporidians during their separate evolutionary histories and adaptations to different hosts. Project work involved, among others, localisation studies and functional characterisation to test the hypotheses resulting from this comparison. The comparative analysis highlighted drastic differences between the different genomes. Another primary focus of the project was a detailed analysis of the transport proteins and functional characterisation of the transporters. The project’s results stand to enhance scientific understanding of the general biology of human parasites.

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