Global selective sweep of a highly inbred genome of the cattle parasite Neospora caninum

Neospora caninum, a cyst-forming apicomplexan parasite, is a leading cause of neuromuscular diseases in dogs as well as fetal abortion in cattle worldwide. The importance of the domestic and sylvatic life cycles of Neospora, and the role of vertical transmission in the expansion and transmission of infection in cattle, is not sufficiently understood. To elucidate the population genomics of Neospora, we genotyped 50 isolates collected worldwide from a wide range of hosts using 19 linked and unlinked genetic markers. Phylogenetic analysis and genetic distance indices resolved a single genotype of N. caninum. Whole-genome sequencing of 7 isolates from 2 different continents identified high linkage disequilibrium, significant structural variation, but only limited polymorphism genome-wide, with only 5,766 biallelic single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) total. Greater than half of these SNPs (∼3,000) clustered into 6 distinct haploblocks and each block possessed limited allelic diversity (with only 4 to 6 haplotypes resolved at each cluster). Importantly, the alleles at each haploblock had independently segregated across the strains sequenced, supporting a unisexual expansion model that is mosaic at 6 genomic blocks. Integrating seroprevalence data from African cattle, our data support a global selective sweep of a highly inbred livestock pathogen that originated within European dairy stock and expanded transcontinentally via unisexual mating and vertical transmission very recently, likely the result of human activities, including recurrent migration, domestication, and breed development of bovid and canid hosts within similar proximities.

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