Gene Synteny and Evolution of Genome Architecture in Trypanosomatids

Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2004 Apr;134(2):183-91. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2003.11.012.


The trypanosomatid protozoa Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania major are related human pathogens that cause markedly distinct diseases. Using information from genome sequencing projects currently underway, we have compared the sequences of large chromosomal fragments from each species. Despite high levels of divergence at the sequence level, these three species exhibit a striking conservation of gene order, suggesting that selection has maintained gene order among the trypanosomatids over hundreds of millions of years of evolution. The few sites of genome rearrangement between these species are marked by the presence of retrotransposon-like elements, suggesting that retrotransposons may have played an important role in shaping trypanosomatid genome organization. A degenerate retroelement was identified in L. major by examining the regions near breakage points of the synteny. This is the first such element found in L. major suggesting that retroelements were found in the common ancestor of all three species.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computational Biology
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Order
  • Genome, Protozoan*
  • Genomics
  • Leishmania major / genetics
  • Multigene Family
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Retroelements / physiology*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Synteny*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / genetics
  • Trypanosoma cruzi / genetics
  • Trypanosomatina / genetics*


  • Retroelements