This article is part of the supplement: Eighth International Conference on Bioinformatics (InCoB2009):Computational Biology

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Phylogenetic reconstruction using secondary structures and sequence motifs of ITS2 rDNA of Paragonimus westermani (Kerbert, 1878) Braun, 1899 (Digenea: Paragonimidae) and related species

Pramod Kumar Prasad1, Veena Tandon1*, Devendra Kumar Biswal2, Lalit Mohan Goswami1 and Anupam Chatterjee3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Zoology, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong-793022, Meghalaya, India

2 Bioinformatics Centre, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong-793022, Meghalaya, India

3 Department of Biotechnology & Bioinformatics, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong-793022, Meghalaya, India

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BMC Genomics 2009, 10(Suppl 3):S25  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-S3-S25

Published: 3 December 2009



Most phylogenetic studies using current methods have focused on primary DNA sequence information. However, RNA secondary structures are particularly useful in systematics because they include characteristics that give "morphological" information, not found in the primary sequence. In several mountainous regions of Northeastern India, foci of Paragonimus (lung fluke) infection reportedly involve species that are known to prevail in neighbouring countries. The present study was undertaken to demonstrate the sequence analysis of the ribosomal DNA (ITS2) of the infective (metacercarial) stage of the lung fluke collected from the edible crab hosts that are abundant in a mountain stream of the area (Miao, Changlang District in Arunachal Pradesh) and to construct its phylogeny. Using the approach of molecular morphometrics that is based on ITS2 secondary structure homologies, phylogenetic relationships of the various isolates of Paragonimus species that are prevalent in the neighbouring Near-eastern countries have been discussed.


Initially, ten predicted RNA secondary structures were reconstructed and the topology based only on the predicted RNA secondary structure of the ITS2 region resolved most relationships among the species studied. We obtained three similar topologies for seven species of the genus Paragonimus on the basis of traditional primary sequence analysis using MEGA and a Bayesian analysis of the combined data. The latter approach allowed us to include both primary sequence and RNA molecular morphometrics; each data partition was allowed to have a different evolution rate. Paragonimus westermani was found to group with P. siamensis of Thailand; this was best supported by both the molecular morphometrics and combined analyses. P. heterotremus, P. proliferus, P. skrjabini, P. bangkokensis and P. harinasutai formed a separate clade in the molecular phylogenies, and were reciprocally monophyletic with respect to other species. ITS2 sequence motifs allowed an accurate in-silico distinction of lung flukes.


Data indicate that ITS2 motifs (≤ 50 bp in size) can be considered a promising tool for trematode species identification. RNA secondary structure analysis could be a valuable tool for distinguishing new species and completing Paragonimus systematics, more so because ITS2 secondary structure contains more information than the usual primary sequence alignment.