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The genome of Caenorhabditis bovis

By Lewis Stevens, Stefan Rooke, Laura C Falzon, Eunice M Machuka, Kelvin Momanyi, Maurice K Murungi, Samuel M Njoroge, Christian O Odinga, Allan Ogendo, Joseph Ogola, Eric M Fèvre, Mark Blaxter

Posted 19 Sep 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/766857 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.074)

The free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a key laboratory model for metazoan biology. C. elegans is also used as a model for parasitic nematodes despite being only distantly related to most parasitic species. All ~65 Caenorhabditis species currently in culture are free-living with most having been isolated from decaying plant or fungal matter. Caenorhabditis bovis is a particularly unusual species, having been isolated several times from the inflamed ears of Zebu cattle in Eastern Africa where it is believed to be the cause of bovine parasitic otitis. C. bovis is therefore of particular interest to researchers interested in the evolution of nematode parasitism and in Caenorhabditis diversity. However, as C. bovis is not in laboratory culture, it remains little studied and details of its prevalence, role in bovine parasitic otitis and relationships to other Caenorhabditis species are scarce. Here, by sampling livestock markets and slaughterhouses in Western Kenya, we successfully reisolate C. bovis from the ear of adult female Zebu. We sequence the genome of C. bovis using the Oxford Nanopore MinION platform in a nearby field laboratory and use the data to generate a chromosome-scale draft genome sequence. We exploit this draft genome to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of C. bovis to other Caenorhabditis species and reveal the changes in genome size and content that have occurred during its evolution. We also identify expansions in several gene families that have been implicated in parasitism in other nematode species, including those associated with resistance to antihelminthic drugs. The high-quality draft genome and our analyses thereof represent a significant advancement in our understanding of this unusual Caenorhabditis species.

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