Document Type


Original Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

BMC Evolutionary Biology





DOI of Original Publication



Originally found at

Date of Submission

August 2014



Trypanosomatids of the genera Angomonas and Strigomonas live in a mutualistic association characterized by extensive metabolic cooperation with obligate endosymbiotic Betaproteobacteria. However, the role played by the symbiont has been more guessed by indirect means than evidenced. Symbiont-harboring trypanosomatids, in contrast to their counterparts lacking symbionts, exhibit lower nutritional requirements and are autotrophic for essential amino acids. To evidence the symbiont’s contributions to this autotrophy, entire genomes of symbionts and trypanosomatids with and without symbionts were sequenced here.


Analyses of the essential amino acid pathways revealed that most biosynthetic routes are in the symbiont genome. By contrast, the host trypanosomatid genome contains fewer genes, about half of which originated from different bacterial groups, perhaps only one of which (ornithine cyclodeaminase, EC: derived from the symbiont. Nutritional, enzymatic, and genomic data were jointly analyzed to construct an integrated view of essential amino acid metabolism in symbiont-harboring trypanosomatids. This comprehensive analysis showed perfect concordance among all these data, and revealed that the symbiont contains genes for enzymes that complete essential biosynthetic routes for the host amino acid production, thus explaining the low requirement for these elements in symbiont-harboring trypanosomatids. Phylogenetic analyses show that the cooperation between symbionts and their hosts is complemented by multiple horizontal gene transfers, from bacterial lineages to trypanosomatids, that occurred several times in the course of their evolution. Transfers occur preferentially in parts of the pathways that are missing from other eukaryotes.


We have herein uncovered the genetic and evolutionary bases of essential amino acid biosynthesis in several trypanosomatids with and without endosymbionts, explaining and complementing decades of experimental results. We uncovered the remarkable plasticity in essential amino acid biosynthesis pathway evolution in these protozoans, demonstrating heavy influence of horizontal gene transfer events, from Bacteria to trypanosomatid nuclei, in the evolution of these pathways.


© 2013 Alves et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Is Part Of

VCU Study of Biological Complexity Publications