Fitness Consequences of Plasmodium falciparum pfmdr1 Polymorphisms Inferred from Ex Vivo Culture of Ugandan Parasites

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Sep;57(9):4245-4251. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00161-13. Epub 2013 Jun 24.


Polymorphisms in the Plasmodium falciparum multidrug resistance 1 (pfmdr1) gene impact sensitivity to multiple antimalarials. In Africa, polymorphisms at N86Y and D1246Y are common and have various impacts on sensitivity to different drugs. To gain insight into the fitness consequences of these polymorphisms, we cultured parasites isolated from children with malaria in Tororo, Uganda, where the multiplicity of infection is high, and used pyrosequencing to follow polymorphism prevalences in culture over time. Of 71 cultures, parasites in 69 were successfully analyzed at N86Y and parasites in 68 were successfully analyzed at D1246Y over 3 to 36 days of culture. For position 86, the sequences of 39/69 (56.5%) parasites remained stable (>90% prevalence over 2 to 17 time points), with 82.1% of these being stable for the 86Y mutation. For position 1246, the sequences of 31/68 (45.6%) parasites remained stable, with 64.5% of these being stable for the wild-type D1246 sequence (P = 0.0002 for comparison of stable mutant genotypes for the two alleles). Defining allele selection as a ≥15% change in prevalence between the first and last samples assessed, for position 86, 11 samples showed selection, with selection toward 86Y occurring in 72.7% of alleles; for position 1246, 14 samples showed selection, with selection toward D1246 occurring in 64.3% of alleles (P = 0.11 for comparison of selection of mutations at the two alleles). Among the 7 samples with selection at both alleles, 5 showed selection for both 86Y and D1246. Overall, consistent trends in the direction of selection were seen, although differences were not statistically significant. Our results suggest fitness advantages for parasites with the pfmdr1 86Y mutation and wild-type D1246, highlighting the complex interplay between drug resistance and fitness in malaria parasites. (This study has been registered at under registration no. NCT00948896 and NCT00993031.).

Associated data