Cryptosporidium parvum appears to lack a plastid genome Academic Article uri icon


  • Surprisingly, unlike most Apicomplexa, Cryptosporidium parvum appears to lack a plastid genome. Primers based upon the highly conserved plastid small- or large-subunit rRNA (SSU/LSU rRNA) and the tufA-tRNAPhe genes of other members of the phylum Apicomplexa failed to amplify products from intracellular stages of C. parvum, whereas products were obtained from the plastid-containing apicomplexans Eimeria bovis and Toxoplasma gondii, as well as the plants Allium stellatum and Spinacia oleracea. Dot-blot hybridization of sporozoite genomic DNA (gDNA) supported these PCR results. A T. gondii plastid-specific set of probes containing SSU/LSU rRNA and tufA-tRNA(Phe) genes strongly hybridized to gDNA from a diverse group of plastid-containing organisms including three Apicomplexa, two plants, and Euglena gracilis, but not to those without this organelle including C. parvum, three kinetoplastids, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, mammals and the eubacterium Escherichia coli. Since the origin of the plastid in other apicomplexans is postulated to be the result of a secondary symbiogenesis of either a red or a green alga, the most parsimonious explanation for its absence in C. parvum is that it has been secondarily lost. If confirmed, this would indicate an alternative evolutionary fate for this organelle in one member of the Apicomplexa. It also suggests that unlike the situation with other diseases caused by members of the Apicomplexa, drug development against cryptosporidiosis targeting a plastid genome or metabolic pathways associated with it may not be useful.

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhu, G., Marchewka, M. J., & Keithly, J. S.

citation count

  • 164

publication date

  • February 2000