, Volume 96, Issue 2, pp 90-94

Plasmodium (Haemamoeba) cathemerium gene sequences for phylogenetic analysis of malaria parasites

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Abstract

The DNA sequence information on avian malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium is quite limited. At present, sequences of only 6 out of 34 valid species are available. However, sequence data of avian malaria parasites are particularly important with regard to the resolution of the phylogenetic relationships of the most virulent human malaria agent, Plasmodium falciparum. The question as to whether P. falciparum originates from avian or from mammalian parasites would contribute to our understanding of its biology and would probably facilitate the interpretation of experimental results. To add to the body of molecular data, we sequenced three genes (cytochrome b, 18 SSU rRNA, caseinolytic protease C) of different organellar origin of one of the most widespread avian malaria parasites, Plasmodium (Haemamoeba) cathemerium, which once used to be an important laboratory in vivo model in human malaria research. The analysis of the new P. cathemerium sequences in direct comparison with the rodent parasite P. berghei and the four human malaria parasites by pairwise distance calculation do not suggest a closer relationship of P. cathemerium to P. falciparum than to the other species involved.