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Cell. 1995 Jul 14;82(1):89-100.

The large diverse gene family var encodes proteins involved in cytoadherence and antigenic variation of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes.

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Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum evades host immunity by varying the antigenic and adhesive character of infected erythrocytes. We describe a large and extremely diverse family of P. falciparum genes (var) that encode 200-350 kDa proteins having the expected properties of antigenically variant adhesion molecules. Predicted amino acid sequences of var genes show a variable extracellular segment with domains having receptor-binding features, a transmembrane sequence, and a terminal segment that is a probable submembrane anchor. There are 50-150 var genes on multiple parasite chromosomes, and some are in clustered arrangements. var probes detect two classes of transcripts in steady-state RNA: 7-9 kb var transcripts, and an unusual family of 1.8-2.4 kb transcripts that may be involved in expression or rearrangements of var genes.

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