The large diverse gene family var encodes proteins involved in cytoadherence and antigenic variation of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes

Cell. 1995 Jul 14;82(1):89-100. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(95)90055-1.


The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum evades host immunity by varying the antigenic and adhesive character of infected erythrocytes. We describe a large and extremely diverse family of P. falciparum genes (var) that encode 200-350 kDa proteins having the expected properties of antigenically variant adhesion molecules. Predicted amino acid sequences of var genes show a variable extracellular segment with domains having receptor-binding features, a transmembrane sequence, and a terminal segment that is a probable submembrane anchor. There are 50-150 var genes on multiple parasite chromosomes, and some are in clustered arrangements. var probes detect two classes of transcripts in steady-state RNA: 7-9 kb var transcripts, and an unusual family of 1.8-2.4 kb transcripts that may be involved in expression or rearrangements of var genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antigenic Variation / genetics*
  • Antigens, Protozoan / genetics*
  • Antigens, Protozoan / immunology
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Genes, Protozoan / genetics
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family / genetics*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Protozoan / analysis
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Protozoan

Associated data

  • GENBANK/L40600
  • GENBANK/L40601
  • GENBANK/L40602
  • GENBANK/L40603
  • GENBANK/L40604
  • GENBANK/L40605
  • GENBANK/L40606
  • GENBANK/L40607
  • GENBANK/L40608
  • GENBANK/L40609
  • GENBANK/L42244
  • GENBANK/L42636