ama1 genes of sympatric Plasmodium vivax and P. falciparum from Venezuela differ significantly in genetic diversity and recombination frequency

Ord, R. L., Tami, A. & Sutherland, C. J., 2008, In : PLoS ONE. 3, 10, 10 p., e3366.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

BACKGROUND: We present the first population genetic analysis of homologous loci from two sympatric human malaria parasite populations sharing the same human hosts, using full-length sequences of ama1 genes from Plasmodium vivax and P. falciparum collected in the Venezuelan Amazon.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Significant differences between the two species were found in genetic diversity at the ama1 locus, with 18 distinct haplotypes identified among the 73 Pvama1 sequences obtained, compared to 6 unique haplotypes from 30 Pfama1 sequences, giving overall diversity estimates of h = 0.9091, and h = 0.538 respectively. Levels of recombination were also found to differ between the species, with P. falciparum exhibiting very little recombination across the 1.77 kb sequence. In contrast, analysis of patterns of nucleotide substitutions provided evidence that polymorphisms in the ama1 gene of both species are maintained by balancing selection, particularly in domain I. The two distinct population structures observed are unlikely to result from different selective forces acting upon the two species, which share both human and mosquito hosts in this setting. Rather, the highly structured P. falciparum population appears to be the result of a population bottleneck, while the much less structured P. vivax population is likely to be derived from an ancient pool of diversity, as reflected in a larger estimate of effective population size for this species. Greatly reduced mosquito transmission in 1997, due to low rainfall prior to the second survey, was associated with far fewer P. falciparum infections, but an increase in P. vivax infections, probably due to hypnozoite activation.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The relevance of these findings to putative competitive interactions between these two important human pathogen species is discussed. These results highlight the need for future control interventions to employ strategies targeting each of the parasite species present in endemic areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3366
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Animals, Antigens, Protozoan/genetics, Base Sequence, Gene Frequency, Genetic Variation, Genetics, Population, Haplotypes, Humans, Linkage Disequilibrium, Malaria/genetics, Membrane Proteins/genetics, Plasmodium falciparum/genetics, Plasmodium vivax/genetics, Protozoan Proteins/genetics, Recombination, Genetic, Selection, Genetic, Venezuela

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