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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2012 Aug;15(4):456-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2012.03.003. Epub 2012 Apr 13.

Antigenic variation and the generation of diversity in malaria parasites.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065, USA.


Investigations into the genetic basis underlying antigenic variation in malaria parasites have primarily described transcriptional regulation of the large, multi-copy gene families that encode red cell surface antigens. In particular, extensive alterations to chromatin structure and subnuclear localization have been shown to play key roles in mutually exclusive expression, gene silencing and activation, and epigenetic memory. However the mechanisms responsible for the generation of sequence diversity within these gene families, a characteristic that is equally important for a parasite's ability to avoid the host's immune response, remains poorly understood in malaria. Recent work in model organisms suggests that the mechanisms controlling gene activation and silencing might also contribute to preferential recombination between antigen encoding genes, thus linking these two key processes.

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