Multigene families in malaria


  • Prof Chris Newbold

    University of Oxford

Project summary

It has been known for some time that proteins encoded by the var multigene family in human malaria that are expressed on the surface of the infected red cell are extremely important in both pathogenesis and the development of host immunity. More recently, evidence from a rodent malaria model has implicated a second, larger multigene family known as pir (Plasmodium interspersed repeat), common to all species of malaria and an important determinant of virulence. Both families are extremely polymorphic. Professor Newbold's group have developed algorithms that allow accurate assembly of these gene families from next-generation sequencing of large numbers of field isolates. These studies have revealed an unexpected level of sequence sharing both within and between continents. Using analysis of these data, Professor Newbold's group will investigate how this sequence sharing relates to the development of cross-reactive antibodies and immunity, and whether the pir family is also important in the virulence of human malaria.