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Acta Trop. 2005 Jun;94(3):181-90.

Contribution of the pfmdr1 gene to antimalarial drug-resistance.

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  • 1Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, USA.


The emergence of drug-resistance poses a major obstacle to the control of malaria. A homolog of the major multidrug-transporter in mammalian cells was identified, Plasmodium falciparum multidrug resistance protein-1, pfmdr1, also known as the P-glycoprotein homolog 1, Pgh-1. Several studies have demonstrated strong, although incomplete, associations between resistance to the widely used antimalarial drug chloroquine and mutation of the pfmdr1 gene in both laboratory and field isolates. Genetic studies have confirmed a link between mutation of the pfmdr1 gene and chloroquine-resistance. Although not essential for chloroquine-resistance, pfmdr1 plays a role in modulating levels of resistance. At the same time it appears to be a significant component in resistance to the structurally related drug quinine. A strong association has been observed between possession of the wildtype form of pfmdr1, amplification of pfmdr1 and resistance to hydrophobic drugs such as the arylaminoalcohol mefloquine and the endoperoxide artemisinin derivatives in field isolates. This is supported by genetic studies. The arylaminoalcohol and endoperoxide drugs are structurally unrelated drugs and this resistance resembles true multidrug resistance. Polymorphism in pfmdr1 and gene amplification has been observed throughout the world and their usefulness in predicting resistance levels is influenced by the history of drug selection of each population.

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