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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2000 Nov;111(1):163-71.

Origin of Plasmodium falciparum malaria is traced by mitochondrial DNA.

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Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel St, London WC1E 7HT, UK.


The origin and geographical spread of Plasmodium falciparum is here determined by analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequence polymorphism and divergence from its most closely related species P. reichenowi (a rare parasite of chimpanzees). The complete 6 kb mitochondrial genome was sequenced from the single known isolate of P. reichenowi and from four different cultured isolates of P. falciparum, and aligned with the two previously derived P. falciparum sequences. The extremely low synonymous nucleotide polymorphism in P. falciparum (pi=0.0004) contrasts with the divergence at such sites between the two species (kappa=0.1201), and supports a hypothesis that P. falciparum has recently emerged from a single ancestral population. To survey the geographical distribution of mitochondrial haplotypes in P. falciparum, 104 isolates from several endemic areas were typed for each of the identified single nucleotide polymorphisms. The haplotypes show a radiation out of Africa, with unique types in Southeast Asia and South America being related to African types by single nucleotide changes. This indicates that P. falciparum originated in Africa and colonised Southeast Asia and South America separately.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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