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Nature. 2001 Aug 30;412(6850):875-6.

Malaria. Cooperative silencing elements in var genes.

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  • 1Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0425, USA.


Each Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite carries about 50 var genes from a diverse family that encode variable adhesion proteins on the infected red blood cells of the host, but individual parasites single out just one var gene for expression and silence all the others. Here we show that this silencing is established during the DNA-synthesis phase (S phase) of the cell cycle and that it depends on the cooperative interaction between two elements in separate control regions of each var gene (the 5'-flanking region and the intron). This finding should help to clarify the mechanisms by which parasites coordinate the silencing and activation of var genes that are responsible for antigenic variation in malaria.

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