Members of the family Trypanosomatidae infect many organisms, including animals, plants and humans. Plant-infecting trypanosomes are grouped under the single genus Phytomonas, failing to reflect the wide biological and pathological diversity of these protists. While some Phytomonas spp. multiply in the latex of plants, or in fruit or seeds without apparent pathogenicity, others colonize the phloem sap and afflict plants of substantial economic value, including the coffee tree, coconut and oil palms. Plant trypanosomes have not been studied extensively at the genome level, a major gap in understanding and controlling pathogenesis. We describe the genome sequences of two plant trypanosomatids, one pathogenic isolate from a Guianan coconut and one non-symptomatic isolate from Euphorbia collected in France. Although these parasites have extremely distinct pathogenic impacts, very few genes are unique to either, with the vast majority of genes shared by both isolates. Significantly, both Phytomonas spp. genomes consist essentially of single copy genes for the bulk of their metabolic enzymes, whereas other trypanosomatids e.g. Leishmania and Trypanosoma possess multiple paralogous genes or families. Indeed, comparison with other trypanosomatid genomes revealed a highly streamlined genome, encoding for a minimized metabolic system while conserving the major pathways, and with retention of a full complement of endomembrane organelles, but with no evidence for functional complexity. Identification of the metabolic genes of Phytomonas provides opportunities for establishing in vitro culturing of these fastidious parasites and new tools for the control of agricultural plant disease.
Some plant trypanosomes, single-celled organisms living in phloem sap, are responsible for important palm diseases, inducing frequent expensive and toxic insecticide treatments against their insect vectors. Other trypanosomes multiply in latex tubes without detriment to their host. Despite the wide range of behaviors and impacts, these trypanosomes have been rather unceremoniously lumped into a single genus: Phytomonas. A battery of molecular probes has been used for their characterization but no clear phylogeny or classification has been established. We have sequenced the genomes of a pathogenic phloem-specific Phytomonas from a diseased South American coconut palm and a latex-specific isolate collected from an apparently healthy wild euphorb in the south of France. Upon comparison with each other and with human pathogenic trypanosomes, both Phytomonas revealed distinctive compact genomes, consisting essentially of single-copy genes, with the vast majority of genes shared by both isolates irrespective of their effect on the host. A strong cohort of enzymes in the sugar metabolism pathways was consistent with the nutritional environments found in plants. The genetic nuances may reveal the basis for the behavioral differences between these two unique plant parasites, and indicate the direction of our future studies in search of effective treatment of the crop disease parasites.