Positive selection of Plasmodium falciparum parasites with multiple var2csa-type PfEMP1 genes during the course of infection in pregnant women

Adam F Sander, Ali Salanti, Thomas Lavstsen, Morten A Nielsen, Thor G Theander, Rose G F Leke, Yeung Y Lo, Naveen Bobbili, David E Arnot, Diane W Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Placental malaria infections are caused by Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells sequestering in the placenta by binding to chondroitin sulfate A, mediated by VAR2CSA, a variant of the PfEMP1 family of adhesion antigens. Recent studies have shown that many P. falciparum genomes have multiple genes coding for different VAR2CSA proteins, and parasites with >1 var2csa gene appear to be more common in pregnant women with placental malaria than in nonpregnant individuals. We present evidence that, in pregnant women, parasites containing multiple var2csa-type genes possess a selective advantage over parasites with a single var2csa gene. Accumulation of parasites with multiple copies of the var2csa gene during the course of pregnancy was also correlated with the development of antibodies involved in blocking VAR2CSA adhesion. The data suggest that multiplicity of var2csa-type genes enables P. falciparum parasites to persist for a longer period of time during placental infections, probably because of their greater capacity for antigenic variation and evasion of variant-specific immune responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1679-85
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume203
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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