Genome wide identification of mutational hotspots in the apicomplexan parasite neospora caninum and the implications for virulence

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Genome Biology and Evolution, 2018, 10 (9), pp. 2417 - 2431
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© The Author(s) 2018. Neospora caninum is an apicomplexan parasite responsible for neosporosis, a disease causing hind limb paralysis in dogs and abortion in cattle, resulting in substantial economic losses to beef and dairy industries. Marked differences in pathogenicity exist between N. caninum strains suggesting that intrinsic genetic differences exist between them. These differences likely exist in genes expressed during the tachyzoite lifecycle stage which is responsible for the pathogenesis of neosporosis. An improved understanding of these genetic differences is essential to understanding N. caninum virulence, though such knowledge is scarce. Using a variant detection workflow we compared the tachyzoite transcriptomes of two N. caninum strains with different virulence properties: NC-Liverpool (virulent) and NC-Nowra (avirulent). This workflow identified 3130 SNPs and 6123 indels between the strains, and nine markers capturing 30 variants were Sanger sequenced for both strains. Sequencing of these loci was extended to an additional eight strains and subsequent phylogenetic analysis supported a genetic population structure comprised of two major clades with no geographical segregation. Sequence polymorphisms within coding regions of tachyzoiteassociated genes were concentrated on chromosomes XI and XII, with 19 distinct tachyzoite-associated SNP hotspot regions identified within coding regions of the N. caninum nuclear genome. The variants were predominantly located in loci associated with protein binding, protein-protein interactions, transcription, and translation. Furthermore, 468 nonsynonymous SNPs identified within protein-coding genes were associated with protein kinase activity, protein binding, protein phosphorylation, and proteolysis. This work may implicate these processes and the specific proteins involved as novel effectors of N. caninum tachyzoite virulence.
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