Mitochondrial genome diversity in parasites

Int J Parasitol. 2000 Apr 10;30(4):371-90. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7519(99)00190-3.


Mitochondrial genomes have been sequenced from a wide variety of organisms, including an increasing number of parasites. They maintain some characteristics in common across the spectrum of life-a common core of genes related to mitochondrial respiration being most prominent-but have also developed a great diversity of gene content, organisation, and expression machineries. The characteristics of mitochondrial genomes vary widely among the different groups of protozoan parasites, from the minute genomes of the apicomplexans to amoebae with 20 times as many genes. Kinetoplastid protozoa have a similar number of genes to metazoans, but the details of gene organisation and expression in kinetoplastids require extraordinary mechanisms. Mitochondrial genes in nematodes and trematodes appear quite sedate in comparison, but a closer look shows a strong tendency to unusual tRNA structure and alternative initiation codons among these groups. Mitochondrial genes are increasingly coming into play as aids to phylogenetic and epidemiologic analyses, and mitochondrial functions are being recognised as potential drug targets. In addition, examination of mitochondrial genomes is producing further insights into the diversity of the wide-ranging group of organisms comprising the general category of parasites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amoeba / genetics
  • Animals
  • Cestoda / genetics
  • DNA, Kinetoplast / chemistry
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome, Protozoan*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA Editing
  • Trematoda / genetics


  • DNA, Kinetoplast
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA, Protozoan