Adaptive Radiation of the Flukes of the Family Fasciolidae Inferred from Genome-Wide Comparisons of Key Species

Young Jun Choi, Santiago Fontenla, Peter U. Fischer, Thanh Hoa Le, Alicia Costábile, David Blair, Paul J. Brindley, Jose F. Tort, Miguel M. Cabada, Makedonka Mitreva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Liver and intestinal flukes of the family Fasciolidae cause zoonotic food-borne infections that impact both agriculture and human health throughout the world. Their evolutionary history and the genetic basis underlying their phenotypic and ecological diversity are not well understood. To close that knowledge gap, we compared the whole genomes of Fasciola hepatica, Fasciola gigantica, and Fasciolopsis buski and determined that the split between Fasciolopsis and Fasciola took place ∼90 Ma in the late Cretaceous period, and that between 65 and 50 Ma an intermediate host switch and a shift from intestinal to hepatic habitats occurred in the Fasciola lineage. The rapid climatic and ecological changes occurring during this period may have contributed to the adaptive radiation of these flukes. Expansion of cathepsins, fatty-acid-binding proteins, protein disulfide-isomerases, and molecular chaperones in the genus Fasciola highlights the significance of excretory-secretory proteins in these liver-dwelling flukes. Fasciola hepatica and Fasciola gigantica diverged ∼5 Ma near the Miocene-Pliocene boundary that coincides with reduced faunal exchange between Africa and Eurasia. Severe decrease in the effective population size ∼10 ka in Fasciola is consistent with a founder effect associated with its recent global spread through ruminant domestication. G-protein-coupled receptors may have key roles in adaptation of physiology and behavior to new ecological niches. This study has provided novel insights about the genome evolution of these important pathogens, has generated genomic resources to enable development of improved interventions and diagnosis, and has laid a solid foundation for genomic epidemiology to trace drug resistance and to aid surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-99
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Fasciola gigantica
  • Fasciola hepatica
  • Fasciolopsis buski
  • adaptive radiation
  • food-borne flukes
  • genome evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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