Evolutionary theory predicts that the lack of recombination and chromosomal re-assortment in strictly asexual organisms results in homologous chromosomes irreversibly accumulating mutations and thus evolving independently of each other, a phenomenon termed the Meselson effect. We apply a population genomics approach to examine this effect in an important human pathogen, Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. We determine that T.b. gambiense is evolving strictly asexually and is derived from a single progenitor, which emerged within the last 10,000 years. We demonstrate the Meselson effect for the first time at the genome-wide level in any organism and show large regions of loss of heterozygosity, which we hypothesise to be a short-term compensatory mechanism for counteracting deleterious mutations. Our study sheds new light on the genomic and evolutionary consequences of strict asexuality, which this pathogen uses as it exploits a new biological niche, the human population.
- Evolution, Molecular
- Reproduction, Asexual
- Trypanosoma brucei gambiense/genetics