Detecting number of clones, and their relative abundance, of a malaria parasite (Plasmodium mexicanum) infecting its vertebrate host
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Microsatellites, short tandem repeats of nucleotides in the genome, are useful markers to detect clonal diversity within Plasmodium infections. However, accuracy in determining number of clones and their relative proportions based on standard genetic analyzer instruments is poorly known. DNA extracted from lizards infected with a malaria parasite, Plasmodium mexicanum, provided template to genotype the parasite based on three microsatellite markers. Replicate genotyping of the same natural infections demonstrated strong repeatability of data from the instrument. Mixing DNA extracted from several infected lizards simulated mixed-clone infections with known clonal diversity and relative proportions of clones (N = 56 simulations). The instrument readily detected at least four alleles (clones), even when DNA concentrations among clones differed up to tenfold, but alleles of similar size can be missed because they fall within the “stutter” artifact, and rarely does an allele fail to be detected. For simulations of infections that changed their relative proportions over time, changes in relative peak heights on the instrument output closely followed the known changes in relative proportions. Such data are useful for a broad range of studies on the ecology of malaria parasites.
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