Head and body lice share a largely identical genome, but express that genome differently, resulting in different physical characteristics and preferred habitats. Recent studies have profiled the entire genome, as well as examining the differences in expression at the genome level.
The genome profiles were preented in research by Soon Kang et al., published in the September 2015 edition of Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology, which profiles the total genome of head and body lice.
This study found 12,651 genes in the head louse genome, with 858 genes specific to head lice alone.
This study is complemented by a new paper by Tovar-Corona, et al., published in the July 2015 edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, analyses the different ways head and body lice make use of their genome by transcription.
The study investigated the prevalence of Alternative Splices (AS) in the lice genomes: where a section of DNA can be transcribed in a different manner into a protein via insertion or deletion of material. They found that around 30% of lice genes had alternative splices.
Of the 2016 total lice genes containing AS events, 974 of these were found to contain AS events unique to head lice. 1309 genes contained AS events unique to body lice. The study found that the AS events for body lice were significantly concentrated among genes affecting reproduction.