Species diversity and genome evolution of the pathogenic protozoan parasite, Neospora caninum.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Infection, genetics and evolution : journal of molecular epidemiology and evolutionary genetics in infectious diseases, 2020, 84
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Neospora caninum is a cyst-forming coccidian parasite of veterinary and economical significance, affecting dairy and beef cattle industries on a global scale. Comparative studies suggest that N. caninum consists of a globally dispersed, diverse population of lineages, distinguished by their geographical origin, broad host range, and phenotypic features. This viewpoint is however changing. While intraspecies diversity, and more specifically pathogenic variability, has been experimentally demonstrated in a myriad of studies, the underlying contributors and sources responsible for such diversity have remained nebulous. However, recent large-scale sequence and bioinformatics studies have aided in revealing intrinsic genetic differences distinguishing isolates of this species, that await further characterisation as causative links to virulence and pathogenicity. Furthermore, progress on N. caninum research as a non-model organism is hindered by a lack of robust, annotated genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data for the species, especially compared to other thoroughly studied Apicomplexa such as Toxoplasma gondii and Plasmodium species. This review explores the current body of knowledge on intra-species diversity within N. caninum. This includes the contribution of sequence variants in both coding and non-coding regions, the presence of genome polymorphic hotspots, and the identification of non-synonymous mutations. The implications of such diversity on important parasite phenotypes such as pathogenicity and population structure are also discussed. Lastly, the identification of potential virulence factors from both in-silico and next generation sequencing studies is examined, offering new insights into potential avenues for future research on neosporosis.
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