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Friday, July 19, 2019

A new method for sequencing the hypervariable Plasmodium falciparum gene var2csa from clinical samples.

VAR2CSA, a member of the Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) family, mediates the binding of P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes to chondroitin sulfate A, a surface-associated molecule expressed in placental cells, and plays a central role in the pathogenesis of placental malaria. VAR2CSA is a target of naturally acquired immunity and, as such, is a leading vaccine candidate against placental malaria. This protein is very polymorphic and technically challenging to sequence. Published var2csa sequences, mostly limited to specific domains, have been generated through the sequencing of cloned PCR amplicons using capillary electrophoresis, a method that is both time consuming and…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Increased risk of low birth weight in women with placental malaria associated with P. falciparum VAR2CSA clade.

Pregnancy associated malaria (PAM) causes adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes owing to Plasmodium falciparum accumulation in the placenta. Placental accumulation is mediated by P. falciparum protein VAR2CSA, a leading PAM-specific vaccine target. The extent of its antigen diversity and impact on clinical outcomes remain poorly understood. Through amplicon deep-sequencing placental malaria samples from women in Malawi and Benin, we assessed sequence diversity of VAR2CSA’s ID1-DBL2x region, containing putative vaccine targets and estimated associations of specific clades with adverse birth outcomes. Overall, var2csa diversity was high and haplotypes subdivided into five clades, the largest two defined by homology to parasites strains,…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Long read assemblies of geographically dispersed Plasmodium falciparum isolates reveal highly structured subtelomeres.

Background: Although thousands of clinical isolates of Plasmodium falciparum are being sequenced and analysed by short read technology, the data do not resolve the highly variable subtelomeric regions of the genomes that contain polymorphic gene families involved in immune evasion and pathogenesis. There is also no current standard definition of the boundaries of these variable subtelomeric regions. Methods: Using long-read sequence data (Pacific Biosciences SMRT technology), we assembled and annotated the genomes of 15 P. falciparum isolates, ten of which are newly cultured clinical isolates. We performed comparative analysis of the entire genome with particular emphasis on the subtelomeric regions…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Global genetic diversity of var2csa in Plasmodium falciparum with implications for malaria in pregnancy and vaccine development.

Malaria infection during pregnancy, caused by the sequestering of Plasmodium falciparum parasites in the placenta, leads to high infant mortality and maternal morbidity. The parasite-placenta adherence mechanism is mediated by the VAR2CSA protein, a target for natural occurring immunity. Currently, vaccine development is based on its ID1-DBL2Xb domain however little is known about the global genetic diversity of the encoding var2csa gene, which could influence vaccine efficacy. In a comprehensive analysis of the var2csa gene in >2,000?P. falciparum field isolates across 23 countries, we found that var2csa is duplicated in high prevalence (>25%), African and Oceanian populations harbour a much…

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Friday, July 19, 2019

A forward genetic screen reveals a primary role for Plasmodium falciparum Reticulocyte Binding Protein Homologue 2a and 2b in determining alternative erythrocyte invasion pathways.

Invasion of human erythrocytes is essential for Plasmodium falciparum parasite survival and pathogenesis, and is also a complex phenotype. While some later steps in invasion appear to be invariant and essential, the earlier steps of recognition are controlled by a series of redundant, and only partially understood, receptor-ligand interactions. Reverse genetic analysis of laboratory adapted strains has identified multiple genes that when deleted can alter invasion, but how the relative contributions of each gene translate to the phenotypes of clinical isolates is far from clear. We used a forward genetic approach to identify genes responsible for variable erythrocyte invasion by…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Circlator: automated circularization of genome assemblies using long sequencing reads.

The assembly of DNA sequence data is undergoing a renaissance thanks to emerging technologies capable of producing reads tens of kilobases long. Assembling complete bacterial and small eukaryotic genomes is now possible, but the final step of circularizing sequences remains unsolved. Here we present Circlator, the first tool to automate assembly circularization and produce accurate linear representations of circular sequences. Using Pacific Biosciences and Oxford Nanopore data, Circlator correctly circularized 26 of 27 circularizable sequences, comprising 11 chromosomes and 12 plasmids from bacteria, the apicoplast and mitochondrion of Plasmodium falciparum and a human mitochondrion. Circlator is available at http://sanger-pathogens.github.io/circlator/ .

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Genome analysis of a major urban malaria vector mosquito, Anopheles stephensi.

Background Anopheles stephensi is the key vector of malaria throughout the Indian subcontinent and Middle East and an emerging model for molecular and genetic studies of mosquito-parasite interactions. The type form of the species is responsible for the majority of urban malaria transmission across its range.ResultsHere, we report the genome sequence and annotation of the Indian strain of the type form of An. stephensi. The 221 Mb genome assembly represents more than 92% of the entire genome and was produced using a combination of 454, Illumina, and PacBio sequencing. Physical mapping assigned 62% of the genome onto chromosomes, enabling chromosome-based…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Plasmodium malariae and P. ovale genomes provide insights into malaria parasite evolution.

Elucidation of the evolutionary history and interrelatedness of Plasmodium species that infect humans has been hampered by a lack of genetic information for three human-infective species: P. malariae and two P. ovale species (P. o. curtisi and P. o. wallikeri). These species are prevalent across most regions in which malaria is endemic and are often undetectable by light microscopy, rendering their study in human populations difficult. The exact evolutionary relationship of these species to the other human-infective species has been contested. Using a new reference genome for P. malariae and a manually curated draft P. o. curtisi genome, we are…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Antibody-independent mechanisms regulate the establishment of chronic Plasmodium infection.

Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. All human-infecting Plasmodium species can establish long-lasting chronic infections(1-5), creating an infectious reservoir to sustain transmission(1,6). It is widely accepted that the maintenance of chronic infection involves evasion of adaptive immunity by antigenic variation(7). However, genes involved in this process have been identified in only two of five human-infecting species: Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium knowlesi. Furthermore, little is understood about the early events in the establishment of chronic infection in these species. Using a rodent model we demonstrate that from the infecting population, only a minority of parasites, expressing one of…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Chromosome end repair and genome stability in Plasmodium falciparum.

The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum replicates within circulating red blood cells, where it is subjected to conditions that frequently cause DNA damage. The repair of DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs) is thought to rely almost exclusively on homologous recombination (HR), due to a lack of efficient nonhomologous end joining. However, given that the parasite is haploid during this stage of its life cycle, the mechanisms involved in maintaining genome stability are poorly understood. Of particular interest are the subtelomeric regions of the chromosomes, which contain the majority of the multicopy variant antigen-encoding genes responsible for virulence and disease severity. Here,…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Proteomic analysis of extracellular vesicles from a Plasmodium falciparum Kenyan clinical isolate defines a core parasite secretome.

Many pathogens secrete effector molecules to subvert host immune responses, to acquire nutrients, and/or to prepare host cells for invasion. One of the ways that effector molecules are secreted is through extracellular vesicles (EVs) such as exosomes. Recently, the malaria parasite P. falciparum has been shown to produce EVs that can mediate transfer of genetic material between parasites and induce sexual commitment. Characterizing the content of these vesicles may improve our understanding of P. falciparum pathogenesis and virulence.Previous studies of P. falciparum EVs have been limited to long-term adapted laboratory isolates. In this study, we isolated EVs from a Kenyan…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Repetitive sequences in malaria parasite proteins.

Five species of parasite cause malaria in humans with the most severe disease caused by Plasmodium falciparum. Many of the proteins encoded in the P. falciparum genome are unusually enriched in repetitive low-complexity sequences containing a limited repertoire of amino acids. These repetitive sequences expand and contract dynamically and are among the most rapidly changing sequences in the genome. The simplest repetitive sequences consist of single amino acid repeats such as poly-asparagine tracts that are found in approximately 25% of P. falciparum proteins. More complex repeats of two or more amino acids are also common in diverse parasite protein families.…

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

A feast of malaria parasite genomes.

The Plasmodium genus has evolved over time and across hosts, complexifying our understanding of malaria. In a recent Nature paper, Rutledge et al. (2017) describe the genome sequences of three major human malaria parasite species, providing insight into Plasmodium evolution and raising the question of how many species there are. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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