The intriguing nature of microsporidian genomes

Brief Funct Genomics. 2011 May;10(3):115-24. doi: 10.1093/bfgp/elq032. Epub 2010 Dec 21.


Microsporidia are a group of highly adapted unicellular fungi that are known to infect a wide range of animals, including humans and species of great economic importance. These organisms are best known for their very simple cellular and genomic features, an adaptive consequence of their obligate intracellular parasitism. In the last decade, the acquisition of a large amount of genomic and transcriptomic data from several microsporidian species has greatly improved our understanding of the consequences of a purely intracellular lifestyle. In particular, genome sequence data from these pathogens has revealed how obligate intracellular parasitism can result in radical changes in the composition and structure of nuclear genomes and how these changes can affect cellular and evolutionary mechanisms that are otherwise well conserved among eukaryotes. This article reviews our current understanding of the genome content and structure of microsporidia, discussing their evolutionary origin and cataloguing the mechanisms that have often been involved in their extreme reduction.

PMID:21177329 | DOI:10.1093/bfgp/elq032