Protozoa and fungi are known to have extraordinarily diverse mechanisms of genetic exchange. However, the presence and epidemiological relevance of genetic exchange in Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease, has been controversial and debated for many years. Field studies have identified both predominantly clonal and sexually recombining natural populations. Two of six natural T. cruzi lineages (TcV and TcVI) show hybrid mosaicism, using analysis of single-gene locus markers. The formation of hybrid strains in vitro has been achieved and this provides a framework to study the mechanisms and adaptive significance of genetic exchange. Using whole genome sequencing of a set of experimental hybrids strains, we have confirmed that hybrid formation initially results in tetraploid parasites. The hybrid progeny showed novel mutations that were not attributable to either (diploid) parent showing an increase in amino acid changes. In long-term culture, up to 800 generations, there was a variable but gradual erosion of progeny genomes towards triploidy, yet retention of elevated copy number was observed at several core housekeeping loci. Our findings indicate hybrid formation by fusion of diploid T. cruzi, followed by sporadic genome erosion, but with substantial potential for adaptive evolution, as has been described as a genetic feature of other organisms, such as some fungi.
The data generated in this study have been submitted to the NCBI BioProject database (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bioproject/) under accession number PRJNA748998.
Comparative genomic analyses of Trypanosoma cruzi experimental hybridsNCBI BioProject, PRJNA748998.
- Gabriel Machado Matos
- Björn Andersson
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Antoine Claessens, University of Montpellier, France
© 2022, Matos et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Accurate inference of who infected whom in an infectious disease outbreak is critical for the delivery of effective infection prevention and control. The increased resolution of pathogen whole-genome sequencing has significantly improved our ability to infer transmission events. Despite this, transmission inference often remains limited by the lack of genomic variation between the source case and infected contacts. Although within-host genetic diversity is common among a wide variety of pathogens, conventional whole-genome sequencing phylogenetic approaches exclusively use consensus sequences, which consider only the most prevalent nucleotide at each position and therefore fail to capture low frequency variation within samples. We hypothesized that including within-sample variation in a phylogenetic model would help to identify who infected whom in instances in which this was previously impossible. Using whole-genome sequences from SARS-CoV-2 multi-institutional outbreaks as an example, we show how within-sample diversity is partially maintained among repeated serial samples from the same host, it can transmitted between those cases with known epidemiological links, and how this improves phylogenetic inference and our understanding of who infected whom. Our technique is applicable to other infectious diseases and has immediate clinical utility in infection prevention and control.
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