Background: In recent years a number of genome sequences for different plasmodium species have become available. This has allowed the identification of numerous conserved genes across the different species and has significantly enhanced our understanding of parasite biology. In contrast little is known about species specific differences between the different genomes partly due to the lower sequence coverage and therefore relatively poor annotation of some of the draft genomes particularly the rodent malarias parasite species.
Results: To improve the current annotation and gene identification status of the draft genomes of P. berghei, P. chabaudi and P. yoelii, we performed genome-wide comparisons between these three species. Through analyses via comparative genome hybridizations using a newly designed pan-rodent array as well as in depth bioinformatics analysis, we were able to improve on the coverage of the draft rodent parasite genomes by detecting orthologous genes between these related rodent parasite species. More than 1,000 orthologs for P. yoelii were now newly associated with a P. falciparum gene. In addition to extending the current core gene set for all plasmodium species this analysis also for the first time identifies a relatively small number of genes that are unique to the primate malaria parasites while a larger gene set is uniquely conserved amongst the rodent malaria parasites.
Conclusions: These findings allow a more thorough investigation of the genes that are important for host specificity in malaria.