Giardia lamblia is a protozoan parasite of humans and other mammals that is thought to be one of the most primitive extant eukaryotic organisms. Although distinctly eukaryotic, it is notable for its lack of mitochondria, nucleoli, and perixosomes. It has been suggested that Giardia spp. are pre-mitochondriate organisms, but the identification of genes in G. lamblia thought to be of mitochondrial origin has generated controversy regarding that designation. Giardi lamblia trophozoites have two nuclei that are identical in all ways that have been studied. They are polyploid with at least four, and perhaps eight or more, copies of each of five chromosomes per organism and have an estimated genome complexity of 1.2x10(7)bp of DNA, and GC content of 46%. There is evidence for recombination at the telomeres of some of the chromosomes, and multiple size variants of single chromosomes have been identified within cloned isolates. However, the internal regions of the chromosomes demonstrate no evidence of recombination. For example, there is no evidence for control of vsp gene expression by DNA recombination, and no evidence for rapid mutation in the vsp genes. Single pass sequences of approximately 9% of the G. lamblia genome have already been obtained. An ongoing genome project plans to obtain approximately 95% of the genome by a random approach, as well as a complete physical map using a bacterial artificial chromosome library. The results will facilitate a better understanding of the biology of Giardia spp. as well as their phylogenetic relationship to other primitive organisms.
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