Res. Microbiol. 162 (6) 619-625 [2011-05-18; online 2011-05-18]
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is an important but neglected pathogen that causes chagas disease, which affects millions of people, mainly in latin America. The population structure and epidemiology of the parasite are complex, with much variability among strains. The genome sequence of a reference strain, CL Brener, was published in 2005, and the availability of this sequence has both revealed the complexity of the parasite genome and greatly facilitated research into parasite biology and pathogenesis, by making the sequences of more than 8000 core genes available. The T. cruzi genome is highly repetitive, which has resulted in inaccuracies in the genome sequence, and attempts have been made to provide a deeper analysis of repeated genes as a complement to the genome sequence. The genome was found to be organized in stable core regions containing housekeeping and other genes, surrounded by highly repetitive, often sub-telomeric highly variable regions containing multiple members of large families of surface molecule genes. Comparative sequencing of T. cruzi strains has been initiated and the results show that the core gene content of the parasite is highly conserved, but that much sequence variability, 3-4% difference at the DNA level on average between strains in coding regions, is present. The additional genomes will improve the understanding of parasite biology and epidemiology.