Background: Blastocystis is a highly prevalent anaerobic eukaryotic parasite of humans and animals that is associated with various gastrointestinal and extraintestinal disorders. Epidemiological studies have identified different subtypes but no one subtype has been definitively correlated with disease.
Results: Here we report the 18.8 Mb genome sequence of a Blastocystis subtype 7 isolate, which is the smallest stramenopile genome sequenced to date. The genome is highly compact and contains intriguing rearrangements. Comparisons with other available stramenopile genomes (plant pathogenic oomycete and diatom genomes) revealed effector proteins potentially involved in the adaptation to the intestinal environment, which were likely acquired via horizontal gene transfer. Moreover, Blastocystis living in anaerobic conditions harbors mitochondria-like organelles. An incomplete oxidative phosphorylation chain, a partial Krebs cycle, amino acid and fatty acid metabolisms and an iron-sulfur cluster assembly are all predicted to occur in these organelles. Predicted secretory proteins possess putative activities that may alter host physiology, such as proteases, protease-inhibitors, immunophilins and glycosyltransferases. This parasite also possesses the enzymatic machinery to tolerate oxidative bursts resulting from its own metabolism or induced by the host immune system.
Conclusions: This study provides insights into the genome architecture of this unusual stramenopile. It also proposes candidate genes with which to study the physiopathology of this parasite and thus may lead to further investigations into Blastocystis-host interactions.