Microevolution and subspecific taxonomy of Trypanosoma cruzi

Infect Genet Evol. 2022 Aug 1;105344. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2022.105344. Online ahead of print.


Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease, is a highly polymorphic species, subdivided into 6 main evolutionary lineages or near-clades (formerly discrete typing units or DTUs). An additional near-clade (TC-bat) has recently been evidenced. This pattern is considered to be the result of predominant clonal evolution (PCE). PCE is compatible with occasional mating/hybridization, which do not break the prevalent pattern of clonal evolution, the main trait of it being the presence of Multigene Bifurcating Trees (MGBTs) at all evolutionary levels ("clonal frame"). The development of highly resolutive genetic (microsatellites*) and genomic (sequencing and multi-single nucleotide polymorphism {SNP}* typing) markers shows that PCE also operates at a microevolutionary* level within each of the near-clades ("Russian doll pattern"), in spite of occasional meiosis and hybridization events. Within each near-clade, one can evidence widespread clonal multilocus genotypes*, linkage disequilibrium*, Multigene Bifurcating Trees and lesser near-clades. The within near-clade population structure is like a miniature picture of that of the whole species, suggesting gradual rather than saltatory evolution. Additional data are required to evaluate the stability of these lesser near-clades in the long run and to evaluate the need for an adequate nomenclature for this microevolutionary level.

Keywords: Chagas disease; Clonality; Evolution; Genetic recombination*; Linkage disequilibrium; Molecular epidemiology; Multigene bifurcating tree; Parasite; Population structure; Taxonomy.