The Tc1/mariner transposable element family shapes genetic variation and gene expression in the protist Trichomonas vaginalis

Martina Bradic, Sally D. Warring, Vivien Low, Jane M. Carlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Trichomonas vaginalis is the most prevalent non-viral sexually transmitted parasite. Although the protist is presumed to reproduce asexually, 60% of its haploid genome contains transposable elements (TEs), known contributors to genome variability. The availability of a draft genome sequence and our collection of >200 global isolates of T. vaginalis facilitate the study and analysis of TE population dynamics and their contribution to genomic variability in this protist. Results: We present here a pilot study of a subset of class II Tc1/mariner TEs that belong to the T. vaginalis Tvmar1 family. We report the genetic structure of 19 Tvmar1 loci, their ability to encode a full-length transposase protein, and their insertion frequencies in 94 global isolates from seven regions of the world. While most of the Tvmar1 elements studied exhibited low insertion frequencies, two of the 19 loci (locus 1 and locus 9) show high insertion frequencies of 1.00 and 0.96, respectively. The genetic structuring of the global populations identified by principal component analysis (PCA) of the Tvmar1 loci is in general agreement with published data based on genotyping, showing that Tvmar1 polymorphisms are a robust indicator of T. vaginalis genetic history. Analysis of expression of 22 genes flanking 13 Tvmar1 loci indicated significantly altered expression of six of the genes next to five Tvmar1 insertions, suggesting that the insertions have functional implications for T. vaginalis gene expression. Conclusions: Our study is the first in T. vaginalis to describe Tvmar1 population dynamics and its contribution to genetic variability of the parasite. We show that a majority of our studied Tvmar1 insertion loci exist at very low frequencies in the global population, and insertions are variable between geographical isolates. In addition, we observe that low frequency insertion is related to reduced or abolished expression of flanking genes. While low insertion frequencies might be expected, we identified two Tvmar1 insertion loci that are fixed across global populations. This observation indicates that Tvmar1 insertion may have differing impacts and fitness costs in the host genome and may play varying roles in the adaptive evolution of T. vaginalis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalMobile DNA
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 24 2014


  • DNA transposable element
  • Gene expression
  • Mariner transposase
  • Population genetics
  • Trichomonas vaginalis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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