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Redundancy and recombination in the Echinococcus AgB multigene family: is there any similarity with protozoan contingency genes?


Numerous genetic variants of the Echinococcus antigen B (AgB) are encountered within a single metacestode. This could be a reflection of gene redundancy or the result of a somatic hypermutation process. We evaluate the complexity of the AgB multigene family by characterizing the upstream promoter regions of the 4 already known genes (EgAgB1-EgAgB4) and evaluating their redundancy in the genome of 3 Echinococcus species (E. granulosus, E. ortleppi and E. multilocularis) using PCR-based approaches. We have ascertained that the number of AgB gene copies is quite variable, both within and between species. The most repetitive gene seems to be AgB3, of which there are more than 110 copies in E. ortleppi. For E. granulosus, we have cloned and characterized 10 distinct upstream promoter regions of AgB3 from a single metacestode. Our sequences suggest that AgB1 and AgB3 are involved in gene conversion. These results are discussed in light of the role of gene redundancy and recombination in parasite evasion mechanisms of host immunity, which at present are known for protozoan organisms, but virtually unknown for multicellular parasites.

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