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Worm genome offers clues to evolution of parasitism
Date:9/24/2008

, the worms live in a "resting" stage in which they don't eat or reproduce.

This suspended state, called dauer diapause, is thought to be the infective state of parasitic nematodes. According to the World Health Organization, parasitic nematodes infect about 2 billion people worldwide and severely sicken some 300 million.

The genome of P. pacificus is substantially larger and more complex than C. elegans. It has nearly 170,000 chemical bases and contains 23,500 protein-coding genes. By comparison, C. elegans and the human parasitic nematode Brugia malayi, whose genome was sequenced in 2007, only have about 20,000 and 12,000 protein-coding genes, respectively. Infection with B. malayi causes lymphatic filariasis, which can lead to elephantiasis, a grotesque enlargement of the arms, legs and genitals.

Interestingly, the P. pacificus genome contains a number of genes for cellulases - enzymes that are required to break down cell walls of plants and microorganisms. These genes are nonexistent in C. elegans, although they have been found in plant parasitic nematodes.

"Using genetic tools, we can analyze the development, behavior and ecology of this highly unusual worm to aid in understanding the evolutionary changes that allowed parasitism to occur," says co-author Richard K. Wilson, Ph.D., director of Washington University's Genome Sequencing Center.


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Contact: Caroline Arbanas
arbanasc@wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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