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Open Access Research article

The Trypanosoma cruzi Sylvio X10 strain maxicircle sequence: the third musketeer

Laura I Ruvalcaba-Trejo and Nancy R Sturm*

Author Affiliations

Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1489, USA

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:58  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-58

Published: 24 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Chagas disease has a diverse pathology caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, and is indigenous to Central and South America. A pronounced feature of the trypanosomes is the kinetoplast, which is comprised of catenated maxicircles and minicircles that provide the transcripts involved in uridine insertion/deletion RNA editing. T. cruzi exchange genetic material through a hybridization event. Extant strains are grouped into six discrete typing units by nuclear markers, and three clades, A, B, and C, based on maxicircle gene analysis. Clades A and B are the more closely related. Representative clade B and C maxicircles are known in their entirety, and portions of A, B, and C clades from multiple strains show intra-strain heterogeneity with the potential for maxicircle taxonomic markers that may correlate with clinical presentation.

Results

To perform a genome-wide analysis of the three maxicircle clades, the coding region of clade A representative strain Sylvio X10 (a.k.a. Silvio X10) was sequenced by PCR amplification of specific fragments followed by assembly and comparison with the known CL Brener and Esmeraldo maxicircle sequences. The clade A rRNA and protein coding region maintained synteny with clades B and C. Amino acid analysis of non-edited and 5'-edited genes for Sylvio X10 showed the anticipated gene sequences, with notable frameshifts in the non-edited regions of Cyb and ND4. Comparisons of genes that undergo extensive uridine insertion and deletion display a high number of insertion/deletion mutations that are likely permissible due to the post-transcriptional activity of RNA editing.

Conclusion

Phylogenetic analysis of the entire maxicircle coding region supports the closer evolutionary relationship of clade B to A, consistent with uniparental mitochondrial inheritance from a discrete typing unit TcI parental strain and studies on smaller fragments of the mitochondrial genome. Gene variance that can be corrected by RNA editing hints at an unusual depth for maxicircle taxonomic markers, which will aid in the ability to distinguish strains, their corresponding symptoms, and further our understanding of the T. cruzi population structure. The prevalence of apparently compromised coding regions outside of normally edited regions hints at undescribed but active mechanisms of genetic exchange.