Virulence of Malaria Is Associated With Differential Expression of Plasmodium Falciparum Var Gene Subgroups in a Case-Control Study

J Infect Dis. 2006 Jun 1;193(11):1567-74. doi: 10.1086/503776. Epub 2006 Apr 20.


Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) is a major pathogenicity factor in falciparum malaria that mediates cytoadherence. PfEMP1 is encoded by approximately 60 var genes per haploid genome. Most var genes are grouped into 3 subgroups: A, B, and C. Evidence is emerging that the specific expression of these subgroups has clinical significance. Using field samples from children from Papua New Guinea with severe, mild, and asymptomatic malaria, we compared proportions of transcripts of var groups, as determined by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. We found a significantly higher proportion of var group B transcripts in children with clinical malaria (mild and severe), whereas a large proportion of var group C transcripts was found in asymptomatic children. These data from naturally infected children clearly show that major differences exist in var gene expression between parasites causing clinical disease and those causing asymptomatic infections. Furthermore, parasites forming rosettes showed a significant up-regulation of var group A transcripts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity*
  • Protozoan Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Protozoan / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Virulence / genetics*


  • Protozoan Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Protozoan
  • erythrocyte membrane protein 1, Plasmodium falciparum