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Mol Biol Evol. 2010 Sep;27(9):2198-209. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq108. Epub 2010 Apr 28.

Low-complexity regions in Plasmodium falciparum: missing links in the evolution of an extreme genome.

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  • 1Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA. zmartine@gmail.com

Abstract

Over the past decade, attempts to explain the unusual size and prevalence of low-complexity regions (LCRs) in the proteins of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum have used both neutral and adaptive models. This past research has offered conflicting explanations for LCR characteristics and their role in, and influence on, the evolution of genome structure. Here we show that P. falciparum LCRs (PfLCRs) are not a single phenomenon, but rather consist of at least three distinct types of sequence, and this heterogeneity is the source of the conflict in the literature. Using molecular and population genetics, we show that these families of PfLCRs are evolving by different mechanisms. One of these families, named here the HighGC family, is of particular interest because these LCRs act as recombination hotspots, both in genes under positive selection for high levels of diversity which can be created by recombination (antigens) and those likely to be evolving neutrally or under negative selection (metabolic enzymes). We discuss how the discovery of these distinct species of PfLCRs helps to resolve previous contradictory studies on LCRs in malaria and contributes to our understanding of the evolution of the of the parasite's unusual genome.

PMID:
20427419
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2922621
Free PMC Article
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