Plasmodium malariae and P. ovale genomes provide insights into malaria parasite evolution

Gavin G. Rutledge, Ulrike Bohme, Mandy Sanders, A Reid, James A. Cotton, Oumou Maiga-Ascofare, Abdoulaye Djimde, Tobias O. Apinjoh, Lucas Amenga-Etego, Magnus Manske, J Barnwell, Francois Renaud, Benjamin Ollomo, Franck Prugnolle, Nicholas Anstey, Sarah Auburn, Ric Price, James McCarthy, Dominic Kwiatkowski, Christopher NewboldM Berriman, Thomas Otto

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Elucidation of the evolutionary history and interrelatedness of Plasmodium species that infect humans has been hampered by a lack of genetic information for three human-infective species: P. malariae and two P. ovale species (P. o. curtisi and P. o. wallikeri)1. These species are prevalent across most regions in which malaria is endemic2,3 and are often undetectable by light microscopy4, rendering their study in human populations difficult5. The exact evolutionary relationship of these species to the other human-infective species has been contested6,7. Using a new reference genome for P. malariae and a manually curated draft P. o. curtisi genome, we are now able to accurately place these species within the Plasmodium phylogeny. Sequencing of a P. malariae relative that infects chimpanzees reveals similar signatures of selection in the P. malariae lineage to another Plasmodium lineage shown to be capable of colonization of both human and chimpanzee hosts. Molecular dating suggests that these host adaptations occurred over similar evolutionary timescales. In addition to the core genome that is conserved between species, differences in gene content can be linked to their specific biology. The genome suggests that P. malariae expresses a family of heterodimeric proteins on its surface that have structural similarities to a protein crucial for invasion of red blood cells. The data presented here provide insight into the evolution of the Plasmodium genus as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-104
Number of pages4
Issue number7639
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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