Genome-wide variation and identification of vaccine targets in the Plasmodium falciparum genome.
Mu J., Awadalla P., Duan J., McGee KM., Keebler J., Seydel K., McVean GAT., Su X-Z.
One goal in sequencing the Plasmodium falciparum genome, the agent of the most lethal form of malaria, is to discover vaccine and drug targets. However, identifying those targets in a genome in which approximately 60% of genes have unknown functions is an enormous challenge. Because the majority of known malaria antigens and drug-resistant genes are highly polymorphic and under various selective pressures, genome-wide analysis for signatures of selection may lead to discovery of new vaccine and drug candidates. Here we surveyed 3,539 P. falciparum genes ( approximately 65% of the predicted genes) for polymorphisms and identified various highly polymorphic loci and genes, some of which encode new antigens that we confirmed using human immune sera. Our collections of genome-wide SNPs ( approximately 65% nonsynonymous) and polymorphic microsatellites and indels provide a high-resolution map (one marker per approximately 4 kb) for mapping parasite traits and studying parasite populations. In addition, we report new antigens, providing urgently needed vaccine candidates for disease control.