Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Genome-wide gene expression profiling analysis of Leishmania major and Leishmania infantum developmental stages reveals substantial differences between the two species

Annie Rochette, Frédéric Raymond, Jean-Michel Ubeda, Martin Smith, Nadine Messier, Sébastien Boisvert, Philippe Rigault, Jacques Corbeil, Marc Ouellette and Barbara Papadopoulou*

Author Affiliations

Research Centre in Infectious Diseases, CHUL Research Centre and Department of Medical Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec, Canada

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:255  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-255

Published: 29 May 2008

Abstract

Background

Leishmania parasites cause a diverse spectrum of diseases in humans ranging from spontaneously healing skin lesions (e.g., L. major) to life-threatening visceral diseases (e.g., L. infantum). The high conservation in gene content and genome organization between Leishmania major and Leishmania infantum contrasts their distinct pathophysiologies, suggesting that highly regulated hierarchical and temporal changes in gene expression may be involved.

Results

We used a multispecies DNA oligonucleotide microarray to compare whole-genome expression patterns of promastigote (sandfly vector) and amastigote (mammalian macrophages) developmental stages between L. major and L. infantum. Seven per cent of the total L. infantum genome and 9.3% of the L. major genome were differentially expressed at the RNA level throughout development. The main variations were found in genes involved in metabolism, cellular organization and biogenesis, transport and genes encoding unknown function. Remarkably, this comparative global interspecies analysis demonstrated that only 10–12% of the differentially expressed genes were common to L. major and L. infantum. Differentially expressed genes are randomly distributed across chromosomes further supporting a posttranscriptional control, which is likely to involve a variety of 3'UTR elements.

Conclusion

This study highlighted substantial differences in gene expression patterns between L. major and L. infantum. These important species-specific differences in stage-regulated gene expression may contribute to the disease tropism that distinguishes L. major from L. infantum.