Trends Parasitol. 28 (2) 46-52 [2012-02-00; online 2011-12-20]
Diplomonads, single-celled eukaryotes, are unusual in having two nuclei. Each nucleus contains two copies of the genome and is transcriptionally active. It has long been assumed that diplomonads in general and Giardia intestinalis in particular are asexual. Genomic and population genetic data now challenge that assumption and extensive allelic sequence heterogeneity has been reported in some but not all examined diplomonad lineages. Here it is argued, in contrast to common assumptions, that allelic differences indicate recent sexual events, and isolates that have divided asexually for many generations have lost their allelic variation owing to within-cell recombination. Consequently, directed studies of the allelic sequence heterogeneity in diverse diplomonad lineages are likely to reveal details about the enigmatic diplomonad sexual life cycle.