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The population genetics of Trypanosoma cruzi revisited in the light of the predominant clonal evolution model


Comparing the population structure of Trypanosoma cruzi with that of other pathogens, including parasitic protozoa, fungi, bacteria and viruses, shows that the agent of Chagas disease shares typical traits with many other species, related to a predominant clonal evolution (PCE) pattern: statistically significant linkage disequilibrium, overrepresented multilocus genotypes, near-clades (genetic subdivisions somewhat blurred by occasional genetic exchange/hybridization) and "Russian doll" patterns (PCE is observed, not only at the level of the whole species, but also, within the near-clades). Moreover, T. cruzi population structure exhibits linkage with the diversity of several strongly selected genes, with gene expression profiles, and with some major phenotypic traits. We discuss the evolutionary significance of these results, and their implications in terms of applied research (molecular epidemiology/strain typing, analysis of genes of interest, vaccine and drug design, immunological diagnosis) and of experimental evolution. Lastly, we revisit the long-term debate of describing new species within the T. cruzi taxon.

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