Molecular systematics of the parasitic protozoan Giardia intestinalis

Mol Biol Evol. 1999 Sep;16(9):1135-44. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a026204.


The long-standing controversy regarding whether Giardia intestinalis is a single species prevalent in both human and animal hosts or a species complex consisting of morphologically similar organisms that differ in host range and other biotypic characteristics is an issue with important medical, veterinary, and environmental management implications. In the past decade, highly distinct genotypes (some apparently confined to particular host groups) have been identified by genetic analysis of samples isolated from different host species. The aim of this study was to undertake a phylogenetic analysis of G. intestinalis that were representative of all known major genetic groups and compare them with other Giardia species, viz. G. ardeae, G. muris, and G. microti. Segments from four "housekeeping" genes (specifying glutamate dehydrogenase, triose phosphate isomerase, elongation factor 1 alpha, and 18S ribosomal RNA) were examined by analysis of 0.48-0.69-kb nucleotide sequences determined from DNA amplified in polymerase chain reactions from each locus. In addition, isolates were compared by allozymic analysis of electrophoretic data obtained for 21 enzymes representing 23 gene loci. The results obtained from these independent techniques and different loci were essentially congruous. Analyses using G. ardeae and/or G. muris as outgroups supported the monophyly of G. intestinalis and also showed that this species includes genotypes that represent at least seven deeply rooted lineages, herein designated assemblages A-G. Inclusion of G. microti in the analysis of 18S rRNA sequence data demonstrated the monophyly of Giardia with the same median body morphology but did not support the monophyly of G. intestinalis, instead placing G. microti within G. intestinalis. The findings support the hypothesis that G. intestinalis is a species complex and suggest that G. microti is a member of this complex.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Enzymes / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Giardia / classification
  • Giardia / genetics
  • Giardia / pathogenicity
  • Giardia lamblia / classification
  • Giardia lamblia / genetics*
  • Giardia lamblia / pathogenicity
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Humans
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1
  • Peptide Elongation Factors / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • RNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics
  • Species Specificity
  • Triose-Phosphate Isomerase / genetics


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Enzymes
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1
  • Peptide Elongation Factors
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • RNA, Protozoan
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase
  • Triose-Phosphate Isomerase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF069057
  • GENBANK/AF069058
  • GENBANK/AF069059
  • GENBANK/AF069060
  • GENBANK/AF069556
  • GENBANK/AF069557
  • GENBANK/AF069558
  • GENBANK/AF069559
  • GENBANK/AF069560
  • GENBANK/AF069561
  • GENBANK/AF069562
  • GENBANK/AF069563
  • GENBANK/AF069564
  • GENBANK/AF069565
  • GENBANK/AF069566
  • GENBANK/AF069567
  • GENBANK/AF069568
  • GENBANK/AF069569
  • GENBANK/AF069570
  • GENBANK/AF069571
  • GENBANK/AF069572
  • GENBANK/AF069573
  • GENBANK/AF069574
  • GENBANK/AF069575
  • GENBANK/AF113895
  • GENBANK/AF113896
  • GENBANK/AF113897
  • GENBANK/AF113898
  • GENBANK/AF113899
  • GENBANK/AF113900