The Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) family is a highly polymorphic class of variant surface antigens encoded by var genes that play an important role in malaria pathogenesis. This report describes the unexpected finding that 1 of the var genes encoding a PfEMP1 variant that binds to the host receptor chondroitin sulfate A (CSA) and is implicated in malaria in pregnancy is well conserved among P. falciparum isolates worldwide. The N-terminal domains of this PfEMP1 variant are especially highly conserved, whereas the functional CSA binding domain is more variable. Analysis of var gene expression in placental parasites from primigravid women in Malawi did not support a role for this conserved gene in placental infection but identified a second commonly occurring var gene. These results indicate the need for reevaluation of previous assumptions of a minimal overlap between var gene repertoires from different parasite isolates.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health