We know surprisingly little about the evolutionary origins of Chlamydia trachomatis. It causes both ocular (trachoma) and sexually transmitted infections in humans, it is an obligate intracellular pathogen, and there are only a few "isolates" that have been well characterized. From the first few genomes analyzed, it seems that the C. trachomatis genome is highly conserved. The genomes possess high synteny and, in some cases, the sequence variation between genomes is as little as 20 SNPs. Recent indications from partial genome analyses suggest that recombination is the mechanism for generating diversity. There is no accurate molecular clock by which to measure the evolution of C. trachomatis. The origins of both sexually transmitted and ocular C. trachomatis are unclear, but it seems likely that they evolved with humans and shared a common ancestor with environmental chlamydiae some 700 million years ago. Subsequently, evolution within mammalian cells has been accompanied by radical reduction in the C. trachomatis genome.
© 2011 New York Academy of Sciences.