Multi-locus analysis resolves the epidemic finch strain of Trichomonas gallinae and suggests introgression from divergent trichomonads

Abdulwahed Alrefaei, Ross Low, Neil Hall, Rodrigo Jardim, Alberto Davila, Rick Gerhold, Shinto John, Sascha Steinbiss, Andrew A. Cunningham, Becki Lawson, Diana Bell, Kevin Tyler

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In Europe, Trichomonas gallinae recently emerged as a cause of epidemic disease in songbirds. A highly virulent and clonal strain of the parasite, first found in the UK, has become the predominant strain there and spread to continental Europe. Discriminating this epidemic strain of T. gallinae from other strains necessitated development of multi-locus sequence typing (MLST). Development of the MLST was facilitated by the assembly and annotation of a 54.7 Mb draft genome of a cloned stabilate of the A1 European finch epidemic strain (isolated from Greenfinch, Carduelis chloris, XT-1081/07 in 2007) containing 21,924 protein coding genes. This enabled construction of a robust 19 locus MLST based on existing typing loci for Trichomonas vaginalis and T. gallinae. Our MLST has the sensitivity to discriminate strains within existing genotypes confidently, and resolves the American finch A1 genotype from the epidemic European finch A1 genotype. Interestingly, one isolate we obtained from a captive black-naped fruit dove Ptilinopsus melanospilus, was not truly T. ¬¬¬gallinae but a hybrid of T. gallinae with a distant trichomonad lineage. Phylogenetic analysis of the individual loci in this fruit dove provides evidence of gene flow between distant trichomonad lineages at two of the 19 loci examined and may provide precedence for the emergence of other hybrid trichomonad genomes including T. vaginalis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2391–2402
Number of pages12
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number8
Early online date31 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

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