Multiple var2csa-type PfEMP1 genes located at different chromosomal loci occur in many Plasmodium falciparum isolates

Adam F Sander, Ali Salanti, Thomas Lavstsen, Morten A Nielsen, Pamela Magistrado, John Lusingu, Nicaise Tuikue Ndam, David E Arnot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background
The var2csa gene encodes a Plasmodium falciparum adhesion receptor which binds chondroitin sulfate A (CSA). This var gene is more conserved than other PfEMP1/var genes and is found in all P. falciparum isolates. In isolates 3D7, FCR3/It4 and HB3, var2csa is transcribed from a sub-telomeric position on the left arm of chromosome 12, but it is not known if this location is conserved in all parasites. Genome sequencing indicates that the var2csa gene is duplicated in HB3, but whether this is true in natural populations is uncertain.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To assess global variation in the VAR2CSA protein, sequence variation in the DBL2X region of var2csa genes in 54 P.falciparum samples was analyzed. Chromosome mapping of var2csa loci was carried out and a quantitative PCR assay was developed to estimate the number of var2csa genes in P.falciparum isolates from the placenta of pregnant women and from the peripheral circulation of other malaria patients. Sequence analysis, gene mapping and copy number quantitation in P.falciparum isolates indicate that there are at least two loci and that both var2csa-like genes can be transcribed. All VAR2CSA DBL2X domains fall into one of two distinct phylogenetic groups possessing one or the other variant of a large (~26 amino acid) dimorphic motif, but whether either motif variant is linked to a specific locus is not known.
Conclusions/Significance
Two or more related but distinct var2csa-type PfEMP1/var genes exist in many P. falciparum isolates. One gene is on chromosome 12 but additional var2csa-type genes are on different chromosomes in different isolates. Multiplicity of var2csa genes appears more common in infected placentae than in samples from non-pregnant donors indicating a possible advantage of this genotype in pregnancy associated malaria.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6667
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume4
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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