Encyclopedia of Parasitology

Living Edition
| Editors: Heinz Mehlhorn

Lice: Genome

  • Heinz Mehlhorn
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27769-6_4725-1

Genome sequencing of the head and body lice showed that the specimens of both subspecies are equipped with the smallest genomes among insects showing 108 Mb for females and 109 Mb for males. They are diploid organisms which possess in total six chromosomes and a telocentric one. Body lice show a guanine-cytosine (GC) content of 28 %. Thus these animals are unusually AT-rich. Inside the genome, no genes of prokaryotic origin occur so that it can be concluded that the obligatory symbiont Candidatus Riesia pediculicola does not transfer genes to its host. Although the genome of lice is very small, it shows full function and shares inner homology. Eighty percent of their genes are orthologic to other sequenced insects.

While in eukaryotes the single mitochondrial chromosome appears typically circular (with a length of about 16 kb and 37 genes), in lice the 37 mitochondrial genes are located on 18 minicircular chromosomes. These minichromosomes of lice are 3–4 kb in length and contain each...


Genome Sequencing Single Gene Genetic Data Mitochondrial Gene Gene Content 
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Further Reading

  1. Leo NP et al (2005) The head and the body lice of humans are genetically distinct: evidence from double infestations. Heredity 95:34–40CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Shao R et al (2009) The single mitochondrial chromosome of animals has evolved into 18 minichromosomes in human body louse. Genome Res 19:904–912CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Shao R et al (2010) Chimeric mitochondrial minichromosomes of the human body louse. Gene 473:36–43CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Toups MA et al (2011) Origin of clothing lice indicates early clothing use by anatomically modern humans in Africa. Mol Biol Evol 28:29–32CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Veracx A, Raoult D (2012) Biology and genetics of human head and body lice. Trends Parasitol 28:563–571CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Zoomorphologie, Zellbiologie und ParasitologieHeinrich-Heine-UniversitätDüsseldorfGermany