Alternative splice in alternative lice

Jaime M. Tovar-Corona, Atahualpa Castillo-Morales, Lu Chen, Brett P. Olds, John M. Clark, Stuart E. Reynolds, Barry R. Pittendrigh, Edward J. Feil, Araxi O. Urrutia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (SciVal)


Genomic and transcriptomics analyses have revealed human head and body lice to be almost genetically identical; although con-specific, they nevertheless occupy distinct ecological niches and have differing feeding patterns. Most importantly, while head lice are not known to be vector competent, body lice can transmit three serious bacterial diseases; epidemictyphus, trench fever, and relapsing fever. In order to gain insights into the molecular bases for these differences, we analyzed alternative splicing (AS) using next-generation sequencing data for one strain of head lice and one strain of body lice. We identified a total of 3,598 AS events which were head or body lice specific. Exon skipping AS events were overrepresented among both head and body lice, whereas intron retention events were underrepresented in both. However, both the enrichment of exon skipping and the underrepresentation of intron retention are significantly stronger in body lice compared with head lice. Genes containing body louse-specific AS events were found to be significantly enriched for functions associated with development of the nervous system, salivary gland, trachea, and ovarian follicle cells, as well as regulation of transcription. In contrast, no functional categories were overrepresented among genes with head louse-specific AS events. Together, our results constitute the first evidence for transcript pool differences in head and body lice, providing insights into molecular adaptations that enabled human lice to adapt to clothing, and representing a powerful illustration of the pivotal role AS can play in functional adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2749-2759
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number10
Early online date13 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Head lice
  • Body lice
  • Alternative splicing
  • Phenotype evolution
  • human parasite
  • Transcriptomatics


Dive into the research topics of 'Alternative splice in alternative lice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this