Identification and characterization of ARS-like sequences as putative origin(s) of replication in human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum

FEBS J. 2017 Aug;284(16):2674-2695. doi: 10.1111/febs.14150. Epub 2017 Jul 27.


DNA replication is a fundamental process in genome maintenance, and initiates from several genomic sites (origins) in eukaryotes. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, conserved sequences known as autonomously replicating sequences (ARSs) provide a landing pad for the origin recognition complex (ORC), leading to replication initiation. Although origins from higher eukaryotes share some common sequence features, the definitive genomic organization of these sites remains elusive. The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum undergoes multiple rounds of DNA replication; therefore, control of initiation events is crucial to ensure proper replication. However, the sites of DNA replication initiation and the mechanism by which replication is initiated are poorly understood. Here, we have identified and characterized putative origins in P. falciparum by bioinformatics analyses and experimental approaches. An autocorrelation measure method was initially used to search for regions with marked fluctuation (dips) in the chromosome, which we hypothesized might contain potential origins. Indeed, S. cerevisiae ARS consensus sequences were found in dip regions. Several of these P. falciparum sequences were validated with chromatin immunoprecipitation-quantitative PCR, nascent strand abundance and a plasmid stability assay. Subsequently, the same sequences were used in yeast to confirm their potential as origins in vivo. Our results identify the presence of functional ARSs in P. falciparum and provide meaningful insights into replication origins in these deadly parasites. These data could be useful in designing transgenic vectors with improved stability for transfection in P. falciparum.

Keywords: Plasmodium falciparum; ARS consensus sequence; autonomously replicating sequence; origin of replication; origin recognition complex.

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Computational Biology
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics*
  • Genome, Protozoan / genetics
  • Origin Recognition Complex / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Origin Recognition Complex