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Strong diversifying selection on domains of the Plasmodium falciparum apical membrane antigen 1 gene.

The Genetics Society of America
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  • Research Article


The surface-accessible ectodomain region of the Plasmodium falciparum apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) is a malaria vaccine candidate. The amino acid sequence may be under selection from naturally acquired immune responses, and previous analyses with a small number of allele sequences indicate a non-neutral pattern of nucleotide variation. To investigate whether there is selection to maintain polymorphism within a population, and to identify the parts of the ectodomain under strongest selection, a sample of 51 alleles from a single endemic population was studied. Analyses using Fu and Li's D and F tests, Tajima's D test, and the McDonald-Kreitman test (with the chimpanzee parasite P. reichenowi as outgroup) show significant departure from neutrality and indicate the selective maintenance of alleles within the population. There is also evidence of a very high recombination rate throughout the sequence, as estimated by the recombination parameter, C, and by the rapid decline in linkage disequilibrium with increasing nucleotide distance. Of the three domains (I-III) encoding structures determined by disulfide bonds, the evidence of selection is strongest for Domains I and III. We predict that these domains in particular are targets of naturally acquired protective immune responses in humans.

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