Genetic exchange within and between assemblages of Giardia duodenalis. Academic Article uri icon


  • Meiotic sex evolved early in the history of eukaryotes. Giardia duodenalis (syn. Giardia lamblia, Giardia intestinalis), a parasitic protist belonging to an early diverging lineage of eukaryotes, shows no cytological or physiological evidence of meiotic or sexual processes. Recent molecular analyses challenge the idea that G. duodenalis is a strictly clonal organism by providing evidence of recombination between homologous chromosomes within one subgroup (Assemblage A) of this species as well as genetic transfer from one subgroup to another (Assemblage A-B). Because recombination is not well documented and because it is not known whether the observed inter-assemblage transfer represents true reciprocal genetic exchange or a non-sexual process, we analyzed genic sequences from all major subgroups (Assemblages A-G) of this species. For all assemblages, we detected molecular signatures consistent with meiotic sex or genetic exchange, including low levels of heterozygosity, as indicated by allelic sequence divergence within isolates, and intra- and inter-assemblage recombination. The identification of recombination between assemblages suggests a shared gene pool and calls into question whether it is appropriate to divide the genetically distinct assemblages of G. duodenalis into a species complex.

publication date

  • November 2009