Kinetoplast genomics for the fine-scale study of hybrid zones in eukaryote parasites

Project Details


Parasitism is a dominant mode of life on the planet, and some parasites cause devastating diseases of both man and his domestic animals. In our research units we study the genomes of Trypanosoma and Leishmania parasites in order to understand their transmission and how frequent they exchange genetic information, a phenomenon that is increasingly being recognized as an emerging public health concern at the interface of infectious disease biology and evolution. A unique feature of these parasites is the kinetoplast, a cell organelle that is similar to the mitochondria in other eukaryotes. The kinetoplast harbors about 10-25% of all cellular DNA and encode genes that are important for the parasite’s metabolism and development in the fly vector. Yet we don’t know how many variants of these genes occur in natural populations, how many different copies of such variants occur within individual parasites and how these genes are inherited from one parasite to another. With the advent of new sequencing technologies, we can now address these questions and develop a new platform to characterize for the first time the entire kinetoplast DNA of natural parasite populations in Peru and Zambia. We will also go a step further by simultaneously analyzing the kinetoplast and nuclear genome (characterized in previous studies) of the same parasite. This will help us understanding when and how these parasites exchanged genetic information, and how these events have shaped their evolution.
Effective start/end date1/01/1730/06/20


  • Research Fund - Flanders: €29,000.00


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