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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 1991 Jan;44(1):115-23.

A circular DNA in malaria parasites encodes an RNA polymerase like that of prokaryotes and chloroplasts.

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Division of Parasitology, National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, U.K.


A 3.5-kb Sau3AI fragment was cloned from a circular DNA molecule isolated from the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and found to contain two contiguous open reading frames. These encode portions of beta and beta' subunits of an RNA polymerase similar to prokaryotic and chloroplast RNA polymerases, and contain highly conserved structural elements. The Plasmodium genes are arranged in a polycistronic transcription unit, as in both Escherichia coli and chloroplast genomes, and are transcribed in erythrocytic stages. These results suggest that the circular DNA may be an unusual mitochondrial DNA, or derived from an unidentified organelle. Because the beta subunit of prokaryotic RNA polymerases is the specific target of the antibiotic rifampicin, our observations may explain the high sensitivity of P. falciparum to this drug in vitro and indicate a new target for chemotherapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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