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      New Insights on Taxonomy, Phylogeny and Population Genetics of Leishmania (Viannia) Parasites Based on Multilocus Sequence Analysis


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          The Leishmania genus comprises up to 35 species, some with status still under discussion. The multilocus sequence typing (MLST)—extensively used for bacteria—has been proposed for pathogenic trypanosomatids. For Leishmania, however, a detailed analysis and revision on the taxonomy is still required. We have partially sequenced four housekeeping genes—glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase (6PGD), mannose phosphate isomerase (MPI) and isocitrate dehydrogenase (ICD)—from 96 Leishmania (Viannia) strains and assessed their discriminatory typing capacity. The fragments had different degrees of diversity, and are thus suitable to be used in combination for intra- and inter-specific inferences. Species-specific single nucleotide polymorphisms were detected, but not for all species; ambiguous sites indicating heterozygosis were observed, as well as the putative homozygous donor. A large number of haplotypes were detected for each marker; for 6PGD a possible ancestral allele for L. (Viannia) was found. Maximum parsimony-based haplotype networks were built. Strains of different species, as identified by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis (MLEE), formed separated clusters in each network, with exceptions. NeighborNet of concatenated sequences confirmed species-specific clusters, suggesting recombination occurring in L. braziliensis and L. guyanensis. Phylogenetic analysis indicates L. lainsoni and L. naiffi as the most divergent species and does not support L. shawi as a distinct species, placing it in the L. guyanensis cluster. BURST analysis resulted in six clonal complexes (CC), corresponding to distinct species. The L. braziliensis strains evaluated correspond to one widely geographically distributed CC and another restricted to one endemic area. This study demonstrates the value of systematic multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) for determining intra- and inter-species relationships and presents an approach to validate the species status of some entities. Furthermore, it contributes to the phylogeny of L. (Viannia) and might be helpful for epidemiological and population genetics analysis based on haplotype/diplotype determinations and inferences.

          Author Summary

          Leishmania is a protozoan genus comprising many species, some associated with a human neglected disease called leishmaniasis. This parasite is found worldwide and is transmitted by sand flies, having numerous domestic and sylvatic animals as reservoirs. Leishmania is genetically and ecologically diverse and it has been argued that this has an impact on the epidemiology of the disease. Many typing methods have been proposed for the study of this diversity, although a generally agreed methodology is still required. Also, there is still a lack of consensus on the validity of some species. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) is a method for studying the population structure and diversity of pathogens, but before an MLST scheme can be proposed it is essential to undertake a detailed analysis and selection of the sequences that are to be included in the system. Here, we sequenced four gene fragments of 96 L. ( Viannia) strains, representing most species from this subgenus. Our results showed a good agreement between the current species assignment and the multilocus sequence analysis. Evidence of genetic recombination was found and the phylogenetic relationships were determined. Overall the results point to the feasibility of an MLST scheme for Leishmania and indicate that the four gene fragments analyzed could form part of this typing system. This will certainly be a valuable approach for taxonomy, population genetics, and epidemiological studies of this pathogen.

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          Most cited references37

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          Multilocus sequence typing: a portable approach to the identification of clones within populations of pathogenic microorganisms.

          Traditional and molecular typing schemes for the characterization of pathogenic microorganisms are poorly portable because they index variation that is difficult to compare among laboratories. To overcome these problems, we propose multilocus sequence typing (MLST), which exploits the unambiguous nature and electronic portability of nucleotide sequence data for the characterization of microorganisms. To evaluate MLST, we determined the sequences of approximately 470-bp fragments from 11 housekeeping genes in a reference set of 107 isolates of Neisseria meningitidis from invasive disease and healthy carriers. For each locus, alleles were assigned arbitrary numbers and dendrograms were constructed from the pairwise differences in multilocus allelic profiles by cluster analysis. The strain associations obtained were consistent with clonal groupings previously determined by multilocus enzyme electrophoresis. A subset of six gene fragments was chosen that retained the resolution and congruence achieved by using all 11 loci. Most isolates from hyper-virulent lineages of serogroups A, B, and C meningococci were identical for all loci or differed from the majority type at only a single locus. MLST using six loci therefore reliably identified the major meningococcal lineages associated with invasive disease. MLST can be applied to almost all bacterial species and other haploid organisms, including those that are difficult to cultivate. The overwhelming advantage of MLST over other molecular typing methods is that sequence data are truly portable between laboratories, permitting one expanding global database per species to be placed on a World-Wide Web site, thus enabling exchange of molecular typing data for global epidemiology via the Internet.
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            Chromosome and gene copy number variation allow major structural change between species and strains of Leishmania.

            Leishmania parasites cause a spectrum of clinical pathology in humans ranging from disfiguring cutaneous lesions to fatal visceral leishmaniasis. We have generated a reference genome for Leishmania mexicana and refined the reference genomes for Leishmania major, Leishmania infantum, and Leishmania braziliensis. This has allowed the identification of a remarkably low number of genes or paralog groups (2, 14, 19, and 67, respectively) unique to one species. These were found to be conserved in additional isolates of the same species. We have predicted allelic variation and find that in these isolates, L. major and L. infantum have a surprisingly low number of predicted heterozygous SNPs compared with L. braziliensis and L. mexicana. We used short read coverage to infer ploidy and gene copy numbers, identifying large copy number variations between species, with 200 tandem gene arrays in L. major and 132 in L. mexicana. Chromosome copy number also varied significantly between species, with nine supernumerary chromosomes in L. infantum, four in L. mexicana, two in L. braziliensis, and one in L. major. A significant bias against gene arrays on supernumerary chromosomes was shown to exist, indicating that duplication events occur more frequently on disomic chromosomes. Taken together, our data demonstrate that there is little variation in unique gene content across Leishmania species, but large-scale genetic heterogeneity can result through gene amplification on disomic chromosomes and variation in chromosome number. Increased gene copy number due to chromosome amplification may contribute to alterations in gene expression in response to environmental conditions in the host, providing a genetic basis for disease tropism.
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              Molecular phylogenetics of Candida albicans.

              We analyzed data on multilocus sequence typing (MLST), ABC typing, mating type-like locus (MAT) status, and antifungal susceptibility for a panel of 1,391 Candida albicans isolates. Almost all (96.7%) of the isolates could be assigned by MLST to one of 17 clades. eBURST analysis revealed 53 clonal clusters. Diploid sequence type 69 was the most common MLST strain type and the founder of the largest clonal cluster, and examples were found among isolates from all parts of the world. ABC types and geographical origins showed statistically significant variations among clades by univariate analysis of variance, but anatomical source and antifungal susceptibility data were not significantly associated. A separate analysis limited to European isolates, thereby minimizing geographical effects, showed significant differences in the proportions of isolates from blood, commensal carriage, and superficial infections among the five most populous clades. The proportion of isolates with low antifungal susceptibility was highest for MAT homozygous a/a types and then alpha/alpha types and was lowest for heterozygous a/alpha types. The tree of clades defined by MLST was not congruent with trees generated from the individual gene fragments sequenced, implying a separate evolutionary history for each fragment. Analysis of nucleic acid variation among loci and within loci supported recombination. Computational haplotype analysis showed a high frequency of recombination events, suggesting that isolates had mixed evolutionary histories resembling those of a sexually reproducing species.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Negl Trop Dis
                PLoS Negl Trop Dis
                PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                November 2012
                1 November 2012
                : 6
                : 11
                : e1888
                [1 ]Laboratório de Pesquisa em Leishmaniose, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
                [2 ]Department of Pathogen Molecular Biology, Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
                [3 ]Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical/Unidade de Parasitologia e Microbiologia Médicas, Lisboa, Portugal
                Yale School of Public Health, United States of America
                Author notes

                The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: EC MCB MAM ILM. Performed the experiments: MCB. Analyzed the data: MCB EC. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: EC ILM MAM. Wrote the paper: EC MCB MAM ILM.

                Copyright @ 2012

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                : 15 June 2012
                : 17 September 2012
                Page count
                Pages: 14
                This work was supported by Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ) - http://portal.fiocruz.br, Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) - http://www.faperj.br, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) - http://www.cnpq.br. This research was also supported by a grant from the European Union (LeishEpinetSA, INCO-CT2005-015407). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Parastic Protozoans
                Population Biology
                Population Genetics
                Genetic Polymorphism

                Infectious disease & Microbiology
                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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