Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Comparative genomic analysis of human infective Trypanosoma cruzi lineages with the bat-restricted subspecies T. cruzi marinkellei

Oscar Franzén1*, Carlos Talavera-López1, Stephen Ochaya1, Claire E Butler2, Louisa A Messenger3, Michael D Lewis3, Martin S Llewellyn3, Cornelis J Marinkelle4, Kevin M Tyler2, Michael A Miles3 and Björn Andersson1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Box 285, Stockholm, SE, 171 77, Sweden

2 Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom

3 Department of Pathogen Molecular Biology, Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London, United Kingdom

4 Centro de Investigaciones en Microbiología y Parasitología Tropical, Universidad de los Andes, Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2012, 13:531  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-531

Published: 5 October 2012



Trypanosoma cruzi marinkellei is a bat-associated parasite of the subgenus Schizotrypanum and it is regarded as a T. cruzi subspecies. Here we report a draft genome sequence of T. c. marinkellei and comparison with T. c. cruzi. Our aims were to identify unique sequences and genomic features, which may relate to their distinct niches.


The T. c. marinkellei genome was found to be ~11% smaller than that of the human-derived parasite T. c. cruzi Sylvio X10. The genome size difference was attributed to copy number variation of coding and non-coding sequences. The sequence divergence in coding regions was ~7.5% between T. c. marinkellei and T. c. cruzi Sylvio X10. A unique acetyltransferase gene was identified in T. c. marinkellei, representing an example of a horizontal gene transfer from eukaryote to eukaryote. Six of eight examined gene families were expanded in T. c. cruzi Sylvio X10. The DGF gene family was expanded in T. c. marinkellei. T. c. cruzi Sylvio X10 contained ~1.5 fold more sequences related to VIPER and L1Tc elements. Experimental infections of mammalian cell lines indicated that T. c. marinkellei has the capacity to invade non-bat cells and undergo intracellular replication.


Several unique sequences were identified in the comparison, including a potential subspecies-specific gene acquisition in T. c. marinkellei. The identified differences reflect the distinct evolutionary trajectories of these parasites and represent targets for functional investigation.