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EMBO J. 1998 Jul 15;17(14):3807-15.

Allelic exchange at the endogenous genomic locus in Plasmodium falciparum proves the role of dihydropteroate synthase in sulfadoxine-resistant malaria.

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The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, PO Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne 3050, Australia.


We have exploited the recently developed ability to trans- fect the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum to investigate the role of polymorphisms in the enzyme dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS), identified in sulfadoxine-resistant field isolates. By using a truncated form of the dhps gene, specific mutations were introduced into the endogenous gene by allelic replacement such that they were under the control of the endogenous promoter. Using this approach a series of mutant dhps alleles that mirror P.falciparum variants found in field isolates were found to confer different levels of sulfadoxine resistance. This analysis shows that alteration of Ala437 to Gly (A437G) confers on the parasite a 5-fold increase in sulfadoxine resistance and addition of further mutations increases the level of resistance to 24-fold above that seen for the transfectant expressing the wild-type dhps allele. This indicates that resistance to high levels of sulfadoxine in P.falciparum has arisen by an accumulation of mutations and that Gly437 is a key residue, consistent with its occurrence in most dhps alleles from resistant isolates. These studies provide proof that the mechanism of resistance to sulfadoxine in P.falciparum involves mutations in the dhps gene and determines the relative contribution of these mutations to this phenotype.

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