Recent Origin of Plasmodium falciparum from a Single Progenitor

Rcjohnsen rcjohnsen at
Sun Jul 22 20:21:52 EST 2001

Recent Origin of Plasmodium falciparum from a Single Progenitor 

Sarah K. Volkman,12* Alyssa E. Barry,13* Emily J. Lyons,13 Kaare M. Nielsen,145
Susan M. Thomas,12 Mehee Choi,14 Seema S. Thakore,12 Karen P. Day,13 Dyann F.
Wirth,1 Daniel L. Hartl14  
Genetic variability of Plasmodium falciparum underlies its transmission success
and thwarts efforts to control disease caused by this parasite. Genetic
variation in antigenic, drug resistance, and pathogenesis determinants is
abundant, consistent with an ancient origin of P. falciparum, whereas DNA
variation at silent (synonymous) sites in coding sequences appears virtually
absent, consistent with a recent origin of the parasite. To resolve this
paradox, we analyzed introns and demonstrated that these are deficient in
single-nucleotide polymorphisms, as are synonymous sites in coding regions.
These data establish the recent origin of P. falciparum and further provide an
explanation for the abundant diversity observed in antigen and other selected
1 The Harvard-Oxford Malaria Genome Diversity Project. 
2 Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School of Public
Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA. 
3 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, OX1 3PS,
Oxford, UK. 
4 Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University,
Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. 
5 Department of Botany, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491,
Trondheim, Norway. 
*   These authors contributed equally to this work. 

   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: dfwirth at


Related articles in Science:

Malaria's Beginnings: On the Heels of Hoes?.

Elizabeth Pennisi 
Science 2001 293: 416-417. (in News Focus) [Summary] [Full Text]   

Volume 293, Number 5529, Issue of 20 Jul 2001, pp. 482-484. 
Copyright © 2001 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science.  

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