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Body Louse Genome

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View the results of this project at VectorBase: P. humanus.

Summary of the Genome Sequences of the Human Body Louse and its Primary Endosymbiont

As an obligatory parasite of humans, the body louse (Pediculus humanus humanus) is an important vector for human diseases, including epidemic typhus, relapsing fever, and trench fever. Recently, we (a consortium of over 70 scientist from around the world) published the genome sequences of the body louse and its primary bacterial endosymbiont Candidatus Riesia pediculicola. The body louse has the smallest known insect genome, spanning 108 Mb. Despite its status as an obligate parasite, it retains a remarkably complete “basal insect” repertoire of 10,773 protein-coding genes and 57 microRNAs. The genome of the body louse, only the second sequenced hemimetabolous insect genome, is the first sequenced genome of a permanent vertebrate ectoparasite and thus may serve as an important reference for understanding molecular mechanisms underlying the evolution of extreme specialization for life on a single host species. Compared with other insect genomes, the body louse genome contains significantly fewer genes associated with environmental sensing and response, including odorant and gustatory receptors and detoxifying enzymes. The unique architecture of the 18 mini-circular body louse mitochondrial chromosomes may be linked to the loss of the gene encoding the mitochondrial single-stranded DNA binding protein. The genome of the obligatory louse endosymbiont Candidatus Riesia pediculicola encodes fewer than 600 genes on a short, linear chromosome and a circular plasmid. The plasmid harbors a unique arrangement of genes required for the synthesis of pantothenate, an essential vitamin deficient in the louse diet. The human body louse, its primary endosymbiont, and the bacterial pathogens it vectors all possess genomes reduced in size in comparison to their free-living close relatives. The body louse genome project thus offers unique information and tools to use in advancing understanding of coevolution among vectors, symbionts, and pathogens.

Work Leading up to the Body Louse Genome Sequencing Project

White Paper for the Body Louse Genome Sequencing Project

Body Louse Genome Paper

Ewen F. Kirkness, Brian J. Haas, Weilin Sun, Henk R. Braig, M. Alejandra Perotti, John M. Clark, Si Hyeock Lee, Hugh M. Robertson, Ryan C. Kennedy, Eran Elhaik, Daniel Gerlach, Evgenia V. Kriventseva, Christine G. Elsik, Dan Graur, Catherine A. Hill, Jan A. Veenstra, Brian Walenz, Jose Manuel C. Tubío, Jose M.C. Ribeiro, Julio Rozas, J. Spencer Johnston, Justin T. Reese, Aleksandar Popadic, Yoshi Tomoyasu, Marta Tojo, Didier Raoult, David L. Reed, Emily Krause, Omprakash Mittapalli, Venu M. Margam, Hong-Mei Li, Jason M. Meyer, Reed Johnson, Jeanne Romero-Severson, Janice Pagel VanZee, David Alvarez-Ponce, Filipe G. Vieira, Montserrat Aguadé, Sara Guirao-Rico, Juan M. Anzola, Kyong Sup Yoon, Joseph P. Strycharz Maria F. Unger, Scott Christley, Marta Tojo, Neil F. Lobo, Manfredo J. Seufferheld, NaiKuan Wang, Gregory A. Dasch, Claudio J. Struchiner, Greg Madey, Linda I. Hannick, Shelby Bidwell, Vinita Joardar, Elisabeth Caler, Renfu Shao, Stephen Barker, Stephen Cameron, Robert V. Bruggner, Allison Regier, Justin Johnson, Lakshmi Viswanathan, Terry R. Utterback, Granger G. Sutton, Daniel Lawson, Robert M. Waterhouse, J. Craig Venter, Robert L. Strausberg, May Berenbaum, Frank H. Collins, Dr. Evgeny M. Zdobnov, and Barry R. Pittendrigh [Project Co-ordinator]. Genome Sequences of the Human Body Louse and its Primary Endosymbiont: Insights into the Permanent Parasitic Lifestyle. JOURNAL INFORMATION TO BE ADDED SOON.

Book Chapter

Pittendrigh, B.R., Clark, J.M., S.H. Lee, Yoon, K.S., Sun, W. and E. Kirkness, "The Body Louse, Pediculus humanus humanus (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae), Genome Project: Past, Present and Future", In, Advances in Human Vector Control, Eds. J.M. Clark, J.R. Bloomquist, H. Kawada, ACS Symposium Series 1014, ACS Books, Washington D.C. 2009, pg.191-202.

Other Papers

Li, W., G. Ortiz, G. Gimenez, D. L Reed, B. Pittendrigh, and D. Raoult. 2010. Genotyping of human lice reveal multiple emergences of body lice from local head louse populations. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. In press.

Lee, S.H., J. S. Min, K. S. Yoon, J. P. Strycharz, R. Johnson, O. Mittapalli, V. M. Margam, W. Sun, H.-M. Li, J. Xie, J. Wu, M. R. Berenbaum, B. Pittendrigh, and J. M. Clark. 2010. Decreased detoxification genes and genome size makes the human body louse an efficient model to study insecticide resistance. Insect Molecular Biology. Accepted.


View further results of this project at VectorBase: P. humanus
Wikipedia - Body Louse