The genomic basis of host and vector specificity in non-pathogenic trypanosomatids

Guy R Oldrieve, Beatrice Malacart, Javier López-Vidal, Keith R. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Trypanosoma theileri, a non-pathogenic parasite of bovines, has a predicted surface protein architecture that likely aids survival in its mammalian host. Their surface proteins are encoded by genes which account for ∼10% of their genome. A non-pathogenic parasite of sheep, Trypanosoma melophagium, is transmitted by the sheep ked and is closely related to T. theileri. To explore host and vector specificity between these species, we sequenced the T. melophagium genome and transcriptome and an annotated draft genome was assembled. T. melophagium was compared to 43 kinetoplastid genomes, including T. theileri. T. melophagium and T. theileri have an AT biased genome, the greatest bias of publicly available trypanosomatids. This trend may result from selection acting to decrease the genomic nucleotide cost. The T. melophagium genome is 6.3Mb smaller than T. theileri and large families of proteins, characteristic of the predicted surface of T. theileri, were found to be absent or greatly reduced in T. melophagium. Instead, T. melophagium has modestly expanded protein families associated with the avoidance of complement-mediated lysis. We propose that the contrasting genomic features of these species is linked to their mode of transmission from their insect vector to their mammalian host.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalBiology Open
Issue number4
Early online date3 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2022


  • trypanosoma melophagium
  • trypanosoma theileri
  • host and vector specificity
  • non-pathogenic


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