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Of the 40 described Naegleria species, only N. fowleri can establish infection in humans, killing almost invariably within two weeks. In the brain, the amoeba performs piece-meal ingestion, or trogocytosis, of brain material causing massive inflammation. Conversely, its close relative Naegleria gruberi, which is used as a laboratory model organism, is non-pathogenic. The exact pathogenicity factors distinguishing N. fowleri from its harmless relatives are unclear. We have here taken an -omics approach to understanding N. fowleri biology and infection at the system level. We provide the first analysis of genomic diversity between strains, finding little conservation in synteny but high conservation in protein complement. We also demonstrate that the N. fowleri genome encodes a similarly complete cellular repertoire to that found in N. gruberi. Our comparative genomic analysis, together with a transcriptomic analysis of low versus high pathogenicity N. fowleri cultured in a mouse infection model, allowed us to construct a model of cellular systems involved in pathogenicity and furthermore provides ~500 novel candidate pathogenicity factors in this currently rare but highly fatal pathogen.

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