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Multinational Research Team Led by J. Craig Venter Institute's Ewen Kirkness Sequence Body Louse Genome
Date:6/21/2010

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A global research team led by scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) today published a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describing the sequencing and analysis of the body louse genome. Lead author, Ewen Kirkness, Ph.D., JCVI, directed the sequencing and gene-finding efforts in the project. Detailed analysis of the genome was then conducted by a large international group of 71 scientists, coordinated by Barry Pittendrigh, University of Illinois, and Professor Evgeny Zdobnov, University of Geneva Medical School. Comparative studies of the body louse genome with other sequenced species revealed features that will enhance our understanding of the relationships between disease-vector insects, the pathogens they transmit, and the affected human hosts.

The human body louse, Pediculus humanus humanus, is a human parasite and is responsible for the transmission of bacteria that cause epidemic typhus, relapsing fever and trench fever. The team at the JCVI focused on the DNA sequencing, genome assembly and identification of genes. In addition to the targeted louse genome, the project unexpectedly yielded the complete genome sequence of a bacterial species, Riesia, that lives in close association with lice, and which is essential for survival of the insects. This study revealed that, despite having the smallest known insect genome (108 Mb) and a parasitic lifestyle, the body louse has retained a remarkably complete repertoire of 10,773 protein-coding genes. The compactness of the louse genome helped to predict the encoded genes accurately. The researchers believe that the genome will be a valuable reference for evolutionary studies of inse
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SOURCE J. Craig Venter Institute
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