Mitochondrial genome sequences support ancient population expansion in Plasmodium vivax

Mol Biol Evol. 2005 Aug;22(8):1733-9. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msi168. Epub 2005 May 18.


Examination of nucleotide diversity in 106 mitochondrial genomes of the most geographically widespread human malaria parasite, Plasmodium vivax, revealed a level of diversity similar to, but slightly higher than, that seen in the virulent human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The pairwise distribution of nucleotide differences among mitochondrial genome sequences supported the hypothesis that both these parasites underwent ancient population expansions. We estimated the age of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of the mitochondrial genomes of both P. vivax and P. falciparum at around 200,000-300,000 years ago. This is close to the previous estimates of the time of the human mitochondrial MRCA and the origin of modern Homo sapiens, consistent with the hypothesis that both these Plasmodium species were parasites of the hominid lineage before the origin of modern H. sapiens and that their population expansion coincided with the population expansion of their host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Genome, Protozoan*
  • Humans
  • Plasmodium vivax / genetics*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial