Recombination hotspots and population structure in Plasmodium falciparum

PLoS Biol. 2005 Oct;3(10):e335. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030335. Epub 2005 Sep 13.


Understanding the influences of population structure, selection, and recombination on polymorphism and linkage disequilibrium (LD) is integral to mapping genes contributing to drug resistance or virulence in Plasmodium falciparum. The parasite's short generation time, coupled with a high cross-over rate, can cause rapid LD break-down. However, observations of low genetic variation have led to suggestions of effective clonality: selfing, population admixture, and selection may preserve LD in populations. Indeed, extensive LD surrounding drug-resistant genes has been observed, indicating that recombination and selection play important roles in shaping recent parasite genome evolution. These studies, however, provide only limited information about haplotype variation at local scales. Here we describe the first (to our knowledge) chromosome-wide SNP haplotype and population recombination maps for a global collection of malaria parasites, including the 3D7 isolate, whose genome has been sequenced previously. The parasites are clustered according to continental origin, but alternative groupings were obtained using SNPs at 37 putative transporter genes that are potentially under selection. Geographic isolation and highly variable multiple infection rates are the major factors affecting haplotype structure. Variation in effective recombination rates is high, both among populations and along the chromosome, with recombination hotspots conserved among populations at chromosome ends. This study supports the feasibility of genome-wide association studies in some parasite populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Animals
  • Asia, Southeastern
  • Central America
  • Drug Resistance
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Linkage Disequilibrium / genetics
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Recombination, Genetic / physiology*
  • South America