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. There is no universal explanation for the occurrence of repetitive sequences and it is possible that many confer no function to the encoded protein and no selective advantage or disadvantage to the parasite. However, there are increasing numbers of examples where repetitive sequences are important for parasite protein function. We discuss the diverse roles of low-complexity repetitive sequences throughout the parasite life cycle, from mediating protein-protein interactions to enabling the parasite to evade the host immune system.© FEMS 2017. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected].
Journal: FEMS microbiology reviews