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Genome-wide analyses reveal genes subject to positive selection in Toxoplasma gondii

Yoshizaki, Sumio, Akahori, Hiromichi, Umemura, Toshiaki, Terada, Tomoyoshi, Takashima, Yasuhiro, Muto, Yoshinori
Gene 2019 v.699 pp. 73-79
Hammondia hammondi, Neospora caninum, Protozoa, Toxoplasma gondii, domestic animals, genes, genome-wide association study, genomics, immune system, immunocompromised population, models, pathogenesis, pathogens, protein products, surface proteins
Toxoplasma gondii is an important protozoan pathogen that infects many wild and domestic animals and causes infections in immunocompromised humans. However, there has been little investigation of the molecular evolutionary trajectories of this pathogenic protozoa using comparative genomics data. Here, we employed a comparative evolutionary genomics approach to identify genes that are under site- and lineage-specific positive selection in nine strains of T. gondii, including two closely related species, Neospora caninum and Hammondia hammondi. Based on the analyses of five coccidian core genomes, 4.5% of the 5788 core genome genes showed strong signals for positive selection in the site model. In addition, the branch-site model analyses in the nine T. gondii core genomes indicated that 2 to 20 genes underwent significant positive selection along each lineage leading to T. gondii strains. Many of the protein products encoded by the positively selected genes are secretory or surface proteins that have previously been implicated in host pathogenesis. The adaptive changes in these positively selected genes might be related to dynamic interactions between the host immune systems and might play a crucial role in the infection and pathogenic processes of T. gondii.