Background: Whole genome studies have highlighted duplicated genes as important substrates for adaptive evolution. We have investigated adaptive evolution in this class of genes in the human parasite Trypanosoma brucei, as indicated by the ratio of non-synonymous (amino-acid changing) to synonymous (amino acid retaining) nucleotide substitution rates.
Methodology/principal findings: We have identified duplicated genes that are most rapidly evolving in this important human parasite. This is the first attempt to investigate adaptive evolution in this species at the codon level. We identify 109 genes within 23 clusters of paralogous gene expansions to be subject to positive selection.
Conclusions/significance: Genes identified include surface antigens in both the mammalian and insect host life cycle stage suggesting that competitive interaction is not solely with the adaptive immune system of the mammalian host. Also surface transporters related to drug resistance and genes related to developmental progression are detected. We discuss how adaptive evolution of these genes may highlight lineage specific processes essential for parasite survival. We also discuss the implications of adaptive evolution of these targets for parasite biology and control.