Evolution of nuclear ribosomal RNAs in kinetoplastid protozoa: Perspectives on the age and origins of parasitism

Ana Paula Fernandes, Kimberlyn Nelson, Stephen M. Beverley

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Molecular evolutionary relationships within the protozoan order Kinetoplastida were deduced from comparisons of the nuclear small and large subunit ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequences. These studies show that relationships among the trypanosomatid protozoans differ from those previously proposed from studies of organismal characteristics or mitochondrial rRNAs. The genera Leishmania, Endotrypanum, Leptomonas, and Crithidia form a closely related group, which shows progressively more distant relationships to Phytomonas and Blastocrithidia, Trypanosoma cruzi, and lastly Trypanosoma brucei. The rooting of the trypanosomatid tree was accomplished by using Bodo caudatus (family Bodonidae) as an outgroup, a status confirmed by molecular comparisons with other eukaryotes. The nuclear rRNA tree agrees well with data obtained from comparisons of other nuclear genes. Differences with the proposed mitochondrial rRNA tree probably reflect the lack of a suitable outgroup for this tree, as the topologies are otherwise similar. Small subunit rRNA divergences within the try panosomatids are large, approaching those among plants and animals, which underscores the evolutionary antiquity of the group. Analysis of the distribution of different parasitic life-styles of these species in conjunction with a probable timing of evolutionary divergences suggests that vertebrate parasitism arose multiple times in the trypanosomatids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11608-11612
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 1993


  • Bodo caudatus
  • Mitochondrial rRNA
  • RNA editing
  • Trypanosomatidae


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