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Genetic analysis of the human infective trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei gambiense: chromosomal segregation, crossing over, and the construction of a genetic map

Anneli Cooper12*, Andy Tait1, Lindsay Sweeney1, Alison Tweedie1, Liam Morrison1, C Michael R Turner12 and Annette MacLeod1

Author Affiliations

1 Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology, Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre, University Place, Glasgow, G12 8TA, UK

2 Division of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre, University Place, Glasgow, G12 8TA, UK

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Genome Biology 2008, 9:R103  doi:10.1186/gb-2008-9-6-r103

Published: 22 June 2008



Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of human sleeping sickness and animal trypanosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa, and it has been subdivided into three subspecies: Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, which cause sleeping sickness in humans, and the nonhuman infective Trypanosoma brucei brucei. T. b. gambiense is the most clinically relevant subspecies, being responsible for more than 90% of all trypanosomal disease in humans. The genome sequence is now available, and a Mendelian genetic system has been demonstrated in T. brucei, facilitating genetic analysis in this diploid protozoan parasite. As an essential step toward identifying loci that determine important traits in the human-infective subspecies, we report the construction of a high-resolution genetic map of the STIB 386 strain of T. b. gambiense.


The genetic map was determined using 119 microsatellite markers assigned to the 11 megabase chromosomes. The total genetic map length of the linkage groups was 733.1 cM, covering a physical distance of 17.9 megabases with an average map unit size of 24 kilobases/cM. Forty-seven markers in this map were also used in a genetic map of the nonhuman infective T. b. brucei subspecies, permitting comparison of the two maps and showing that synteny is conserved between the two subspecies.


The genetic linkage map presented here is the first available for the human-infective trypanosome T. b. gambiense. In combination with the genome sequence, this opens up the possibility of using genetic analysis to identify the loci responsible for T. b. gambiense specific traits such as human infectivity as well as comparative studies of parasite field populations.