Comparative genomics of flatworms (platyhelminthes) reveals shared genomic features of ecto- and endoparastic neodermata

Genome Biol Evol. 2014 May;6(5):1105-17. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evu078.


The ectoparasitic Monogenea comprise a major part of the obligate parasitic flatworm diversity. Although genomic adaptations to parasitism have been studied in the endoparasitic tapeworms (Cestoda) and flukes (Trematoda), no representative of the Monogenea has been investigated yet. We present the high-quality draft genome of Gyrodactylus salaris, an economically important monogenean ectoparasite of wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). A total of 15,488 gene models were identified, of which 7,102 were functionally annotated. The controversial phylogenetic relationships within the obligate parasitic Neodermata were resolved in a phylogenomic analysis using 1,719 gene models (alignment length of >500,000 amino acids) for a set of 16 metazoan taxa. The Monogenea were found basal to the Cestoda and Trematoda, which implies ectoparasitism being plesiomorphic within the Neodermata and strongly supports a common origin of complex life cycles. Comparative analysis of seven parasitic flatworm genomes identified shared genomic features for the ecto- and endoparasitic lineages, such as a substantial reduction of the core bilaterian gene complement, including the homeodomain-containing genes, and a loss of the piwi and vasa genes, which are considered essential for animal development. Furthermore, the shared loss of functional fatty acid biosynthesis pathways and the absence of peroxisomes, the latter organelles presumed ubiquitous in eukaryotes except for parasitic protozoans, were inferred. The draft genome of G. salaris opens for future in-depth analyses of pathogenicity and host specificity of poorly characterized G. salaris strains, and will enhance studies addressing the genomics of host-parasite interactions and speciation in the highly diverse monogenean flatworms.

Keywords: Gyrodactylus salaris; draft genome; flatworms; genomic adaptations; parasitism; phylogenomics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genome
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / genetics
  • Life Cycle Stages / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Multigene Family
  • Peroxisomes / genetics
  • Phylogeny*
  • Platyhelminths / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Trematoda / genetics*


  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins