Genetic diversity and gene family expansions in members of the genus Entamoeba

Ian W. Wilson, Gareth D. Weedall, Hernan Lorenzi, Timothy Howcroft, Chung-Chau Hon, Marc Deloger, Nancy Guillén, Steve Paterson, C. Graham Clark, Neil Hall

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Amoebiasis is the third-most common cause of mortality worldwide from a parasitic disease. Whilst the primary aetiological agent of amoebiasis is the obligate human parasite Entamoeba histolytica, other members of the genus Entamoeba can infect humans and may be pathogenic. Here, we present the first annotated reference genome for Entamoeba moshkovskii, a species that has been associated with human infections, and compare the genomes of E. moshkovskii, E. histolytica, the human commensal Entamoeba dispar and the non-human pathogen Entamoeba invadens. Gene clustering and phylogenetic analyses show differences in expansion and contraction of families of proteins associated with host or bacterial interactions. They intimate the importance to parasitic Entamoeba species of surface-bound proteins involved in adhesion to extracellular membranes, such as the Gal/GalNAc lectin and members of the BspA and Ariel1 families. Furthermore, E. dispar is the only one of the four species to lack a functional copy of the key virulence factor cysteine protease CP-A5, whilst the gene's presence in E. moshkovskii is consistent with the species' potentially pathogenic nature. Entamoeba moshkovskii was found to be more diverse than E. histolytica across all sequence classes. The former is approximately 200 times more diverse than latter, with the 4 E. moshkovskii strains tested having a most recent common ancestor nearly 500 times more ancient than the tested E. histolytica strains. A four-haplotype test indicates that these E. moshkovskii strains are not the same species and should be regarded as a species complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688–705
Number of pages18
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Entamoeba
  • gene family
  • genome diversity
  • species complex

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