Background: Giardia intestinalis is a protozoan parasite that causes diarrhea in a wide range of mammalian species. To further understand the genetic diversity between the Giardia intestinalis species, we have performed genome sequencing and analysis of a wild-type Giardia intestinalis sample from the assemblage E group, isolated from a pig.
Results: We identified 5012 protein coding genes, the majority of which are conserved compared to the previously sequenced genomes of the WB and GS strains in terms of microsynteny and sequence identity. Despite this, there is an unexpectedly large number of chromosomal rearrangements and several smaller structural changes that are present in all chromosomes. Novel members of the VSP, NEK Kinase and HCMP gene families were identified, which may reveal possible mechanisms for host specificity and new avenues for antigenic variation. We used comparative genomics of the three diverse Giardia intestinalis isolates P15, GS and WB to define a core proteome for this species complex and to identify lineage-specific genes. Extensive analyses of polymorphisms in the core proteome of Giardia revealed differential rates of divergence among cellular processes.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that despite a well conserved core of genes there is significant genome variation between Giardia isolates, both in terms of gene content, gene polymorphisms, structural chromosomal variations and surface molecule repertoires. This study improves the annotation of the Giardia genomes and enables the identification of functionally important variation.