Apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA-1), an asexual blood-stage antigen of Plasmodium falciparum, is an important candidate for testing as a component of a malaria vaccine. This study investigates the nature of diversity in the Plasmodium chabaudi adami homolog of AMA-1 and the impact of that diversity on the efficacy of the recombinant antigen as a vaccine against challenge with a heterologous strain of P. chabaudi. The nucleotide sequence of the AMA-1 gene from strain DS differs from the published 556KA sequence at 79 sites. The large number of mutations, the nonrandom distribution of both synonymous and nonsynonymous mutations, and the nature of both the codon changes and the resulting amino acid substitutions suggest that positive selection operates on the AMA-1 gene in regions coding for antigenic sites. Protective immune responses induced by AMA-1 were strain specific. Immunization of mice with the refolded ectodomain of DS AMA-1 provided partial protection against challenge with virulent DS (homologous) parasites but failed to protect against challenge with avirulent 556KA (heterologous) parasites. Passive immunization of mice with rabbit antibodies raised against the same antigen had little effect on heterologous challenge but provided significant protection against the homologous DS parasites.