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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The mitochondrial genomes of Ancylostoma caninum and Bunostomum phlebotomum – two hookworms of animal health and zoonotic importance

Aaron R Jex1, Andrea Waeschenbach2*, Min Hu1, Jan A van Wyk3, Ian Beveridge1, D Timothy J Littlewood2 and Robin B Gasser1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Science, The University of Melbourne, 250 Princes Highway, Werribee, Victoria 3030, Australia

2 Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, UK

3 Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, 0110 Onderstepoort, South Africa

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BMC Genomics 2009, 10:79  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-79

Published: 11 February 2009

Abstract

Background

Hookworms are blood-feeding nematodes that parasitize the small intestines of many mammals, including humans and cattle. These nematodes are of major socioeconomic importance and cause disease, mainly as a consequence of anaemia (particularly in children or young animals), resulting in impaired development and sometimes deaths. Studying genetic variability within and among hookworm populations is central to addressing epidemiological and ecological questions, thus assisting in the control of hookworm disease. Mitochondrial (mt) genes are known to provide useful population markers for hookworms, but mt genome sequence data are scant.

Results

The present study characterizes the complete mt genomes of two species of hookworm, Ancylostoma caninum (from dogs) and Bunostomum phlebotomum (from cattle), each sequenced (by 454 technology or primer-walking), following long-PCR amplification from genomic DNA (~20–40 ng) isolated from individual adult worms. These mt genomes were 13717 bp and 13790 bp in size, respectively, and each contained 12 protein coding, 22 transfer RNA and 2 ribosomal RNA genes, typical for other secernentean nematodes. In addition, phylogenetic analysis (by Bayesian inference and maximum likelihood) of concatenated mt protein sequence data sets for 12 nematodes (including Ancylostoma caninum and Bunostomum phlebotomum), representing the Ascaridida, Spirurida and Strongylida, was conducted. The analysis yielded maximum statistical support for the formation of monophyletic clades for each recognized nematode order assessed, except for the Rhabditida.

Conclusion

The mt genomes characterized herein represent a rich source of population genetic markers for epidemiological and ecological studies. The strong statistical support for the construction of phylogenetic clades and consistency between the two different tree-building methods employed indicate the value of using whole mt genome data sets for systematic studies of nematodes. The grouping of the Spirurida and Ascaridida to the exclusion of the Strongylida was not supported in the present analysis, a finding which conflicts with the current evolutionary hypothesis for the Nematoda based on nuclear ribosomal gene data.